Fuel Duty Stabiliser

Every so often I pick up the Sunday papers at the petrol station and, as usual, I had slammed the nozzle back, and sauntered to the check-out; I was fishing for my wallet and looking down at my purchases when my blood ran cold.

It wasn’t the news about poor old Alan Johnson, though I will greatly miss my cousin Alan, not just because he is a nice guy but also for the satisfaction I used to get when I saw a headline saying “Johnson in new gaffe” and realised it wasn’t me. It wasn’t the stuff about the bugging scandal, though you have to wonder whether the papers that have been so hysterically pursuing Andy Coulson have themselves been entirely guiltless of the practices they denounce.

It wasn’t even the news about the undercover officers – you know, the undercover officers who have been getting under the covers with their targets in order to penetrate their – er – networks more effectively. No doubt this is a reprehensible way to carry on, but you have to admit that such behaviour has been sanctioned and glorified on every page of James Bond, Britain’s number one post-war security professional.

No, it wasn’t anything in the papers that chilled my marrow and stole my voice and made my hair stand up like the quills of the fretful porpentine. In fact, most people in this country will treat all these stories with the sublime indifference they deserve, compared with the fact that stared me in the face – a fact more obscene and shocking than anything allegedly done in the bunga bunga room by Silvio Berlusconi. That fact, of course, was the price of fuel.

Now, I’d done a sneaky thing yesterday morning. I must have been subconsciously aware that a hefty bill was in the offing, so (unusually) I had decided to fill up before the tank was completely empty, with the needle indicating that there was still a smidgen to go – perhaps the depth of a small glass of whisky. And in so far as I was furtively trying to cushion the blow on my own frail psychology, I failed.

If you included the Sunday papers, the cost of filling about seven eighths of the tank of a 1995 Toyota Previa came to £80.54! Talk about whisky. It would be cheaper to fill it up with Black Label. “Cor!” I said, or it may have been “Ghorrh!” The nice woman who serves at the petrol station looked inquiringly. “That’s unbelievable,” I said. “That’s a crippler!” The woman behind the counter gave a cynical cackle – perhaps it was the first cynical cackle she has given for a long time.

“Well, whose fault is that, then?” she demanded. She called to her colleague from the back room. “He’s complaining about the price of petrol, and I just asked him whose fault it was, then!” I bridled. My powers may be great, but they do not include the price of fuel; so I told her that it wasn’t my blooming fault, and staggered in a daze back to the car.

As I started the machine, and the liquid gold began to course through its veins, I pondered her question. Whose fault is it, then? Why is petrol in this country so infernally expensive? It seems to cost twice as much, even allowing for inflation, as it did 10 years ago, when the hauliers launched their doomed revolt. The price clobbers small business and makes life very tough for people in rural areas who don’t have access to good public transport. Some people seem to think the position has been exacerbated by the weakness of sterling against the dollar, though the pound is not appreciably weaker than it was last October, and yet the price of petrol is now heading for £1.29 per litre.

Some people blame the oil companies, or speculators, or middle men or – most absurdly of all – a recent blow-out on the Alaskan pipeline. It is hard to see why UK forecourts should suffer particularly from difficulties in Alaska when you can still fill up your tank in America for something like 50p per litre. The same goes for Russia. In fact, petrol is cheaper in virtually every other European country than it is in Britain, and whatever the reason for the recent spikes, we cannot get around the fact that the spikes are jabbing the consumer all the more painfully because the Treasury takes about 60 per cent of your fuel bill in excise.

And that, of course, is the answer I should have given my friend at the petrol station check-out. If I had been thinking quicker, I would have blamed the Labour government for its useless policies and the mess it left behind. I would have blamed Blair for bamboozling the public into a war about cheap oil that ended up delivering all sorts of disasters but no cheap oil – or at least none available to British motorists. I would have blamed Brown and Balls for racking up the vast deficit that makes cutting taxes so difficult. And I would have tried to give her some sort of sign that the Coalition recognises this escalation cannot go on forever.

It’s not just that it’s inflationary. If Britain’s businesses cannot afford to run their vans, then they will stop hiring, they will stop expanding, and tax yields will go down. It is not just for environmental reasons but for cost reasons that I am starting physically to ache for the age of the electric car. In theory, it should all be kicking off this year. Mitsubishi, Peugeot and Smart are offering electric models this month; next month it is Citroën; in March, Nissan and Tata come to market, and in April we in London are launching our Source London network of charging points.

The electric revolution is happening, but it will not be overnight. The up-front cost of the vehicles remains high, and there is still no electric people carrier. For the foreseeable future, millions of people will have to invest not just in a car but in an overpriced lagoon of fossil fuel.

If I were the government, I would think seriously about that fuel duty stabiliser, because when it costs more to fill your tank than to fly to Rome, something is seriously wrong.

18 thoughts on “Fuel Duty Stabiliser”

  1. You know folks, our MPs have just got round their 2 year pay freeze by inventing a new so-called Family Friendly Second Home Allowance – MPs with children will receive £2,425 extra a year, much MORE than the salary rise they would have received ( ! ) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1349719/MPs-expenses-Second-home-used-round-David-Cameron-salary-freeze.html

    I don’t think those MPs will have any hardships because of the rising petrol prices at all. They are rolling in taxpayers’ money, see?

    Now, I don’t know if this mean gay and lesbian MPs will miss out this generous windfall as they can’t produce children, but surely, this so-called Family Friendly Second Home Allowance goes against the government’s controversial new equality laws? Which they just spent £30million of taxpayers’ money on paying independent researchers to find out if the government’s preserving fish stocks policy discriminate ( racism ) ethnic Chinese living in the UK ( these people eat lots of fish, see?, bless them! ) or hovercrafts discriminate gay, lesbian and transexual folks ( ? )

    You have to agree that after 13 years growing up under the last crazy, political correctness obsessed Labour government, our Tessa June has gone bonkers herself. Of course, she’s only one of millions and million victims of the last Labour government’s systematic propaganda techniques.

    Have a peek at Tessa’s technicolour dreamcoat, folks! It sure will take your winter blues away-

    And lastly, the government will say that if you don’t want to pay for expensive petrol, use public transports. But nowadays public transports cost just as much as driving your own car. Greedy British companies, see?

    In Germany, a bus pass has no user’s photo on it because it is intended to be used by anybody who uses it. Meaning, a family can buy just one bus pass, if the husband drives his car to work, his wife can use the bus pass. If his wife drives her husband’s car to work, he can use the bus pass. In the evening and at weekends, the bus pass can be used by two people. So, the couple can go to town by bus for a drink ( no drink and drive, see? sensible, yes? )

    Nobody wants to cheat this generous system, because if the wife goes to work by bus, she will needs her own bus pass. If their son goes to school by bus, he will need his own bus pass.

    Or if she a housewife and doesn’t drive, she can wait until her son comes home from school with his bus pass, then she can use it to go shopping. Good, yes?

    The customers will decide what they want and what they need. But at least, companies over there want to show their generosity to their customers first.

    In the UK, companies are too calculating. No good, yes?

  2. In round money the mayor bought £30-worth of fuel ;  on top of that he paid £50 in tax :  five pounds in every eight went direct to H.M. Treasury.

    Now, one reason tax is levied on motor fuels is that the demand for it is relatively inelastic (sc. the demand for the product varies little with its price) :  treasuries can therefore fairly accurately predict the tax take from any particular rate of impost.  That is a perfectly reasonable taxation practice ;  it helps to stabilize a country’s finances.

    The trouble is that the rates of taxes on motor fuels in U.K., rather than being arrived at on proper fiscal grounds, are motivated by the anthropogenic-global-warming (a.g.w.) fraud, to which the Liberal-Democrats and nouveaux Conservatives of the coalition government are enthusiastic parties.

    Leaving the criminal element aside for a minute :  the suggestion in the mayor’s article that the arrival of plug-in motor-cars will somehow alleviate this problem betrays a dismal failure to understand the technology of the petroleum industry.

    For the foreseeable future — owing to politicians’ having been for decades in thrall to the anti-nuclear lobby — most developed countries (all except France, really) — will be dependent upon oil and gas for the generation of reticulated electricity, the oil component being a dense fraction* of the distillation of petroleum ;  meanwhile, simply because of its efficiency, DERV fuel (Diesel), another relatively dense fraction, will continue to power the movement of goods.

    * The term ‘dense’ here is a reference to the relative density (specific gravity) of the distillate rather than to, say, ‘a large proportion’.

    The cracking of the oil yields a large quantity of the lighter fractions, particularly gasoline, something we to-day use mainly for the propulsion of small motor vehicles.

    Replacing all those small vehicles with plug-in electric ones, needing to be re-charged from the mains, would have two consequences :

    • the lighter fraction would be wasted ;
    • even more petroleum — and power stations — would be needed to provide the power to re-charge the accumulators of the electric vehicles.

    Owing to the time it takes to bring a power station on-line, we could not expect to start from where we now are and to reach the point of having all these plug-in vehicles without suffering power cuts similar to those that now weigh upon the people of Iraq.  Quite apart from which, recharging is a process that for the foreseeable future will take about a half-hour ;  would you be prepared to spend a half-hour replenishing your motor-car’s fuel tank ?

    An Israeli system of all-electric vehicles, in which the entire accumulator is swapped over in a few minutes at a filling station, although promising, is still at an early stage of development but would give rise to the same problems as respects the capacity of the grid.  (The environmental costs of producing the accumulators themselves should not prove too great ;  properly used they last a long time.)

    Has any-one given any thought to how electric vehicles parked overnight on the street would be plugged in ;  where the cables would go ?  Who — in countries reeling from the politicians’ squandering of their treasuries on the salvation of worthless financial institutions and labouring to pay ‘green’ taxes mandated by the politicians’ a.g.w. fraud — will fund an network of road-side charging points and transformers ?

    Instead of plug-in electric vehicles, we need so called hybrid ones :  those running on gasoline with kinetic-energy-recovery systems (Toyota Prius, Ferrari 599 and the like).


  3. Look, if the mayor was serious about wanting to improve conditions for cyclists he wouldn’t be driving a 1995 Toyota Previa in the first place.

    Take a look at that car on google images. It’s very large.

    A “spokesperson” for cycling who drives a large car when it suits him is a hypocrite.

  4. What gets me most irritated by environmental pressure-groups is that the concern is abstract. Climate change doesn’t affect me at all. I haven’t noticed any effects, except tax increases, politico-driven inconveniences, and cant from tedious characters urging, “Shape-up, be like me!”.

    And the fuel tax rises are not abstract; they are harming the economy now, they are affecting our standard of living now, and even if the climate is going to change at some time in the future, I doubt if the tax rises will make any difference to this change – as Pericles points out, the demand for petrol and diesel is inelastic. Otherwise they wouldn’t tax it so hard – a classic Catch 22.

    But a certain small group of people remain unaffected by these tax rises, and who are of course an environmental pressure group – the successful and wealthy cabinet ministers who impose the taxes, led by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor.

  5. I don’t feel that sorry for people living in the country. If someone chooses to live in the country then there are plenty of opportunities for pottering around the village, organising fetes and growing prize vegetables. There is no need for them to be gallavanting around in their cars in the first place.

  6. I get it, Ron. The government’s policy is, “Don’t ask what you can do for the countryside. Ask the countryside what it can do for you…”. Pay up, yokels!

  7. The climate is changing ;  it always has been changing ;  as far as we know, it always will change — till the Earth be swallowed up by the Sun several billions of years from now.  The variability of the climate is a consequence of astronomical and geological processes over which man could not exercise control even if he would.

    From a purely practical point of view :  if we look at recorded history — something quite small on the scale of geological time — we see that, when ever the temperature has risen, life has flourished, health has improved and the economy grown ;  on the other paw, when it has fallen, most species, humans particularly, have retreated in the face of all manner of disease and economic activity has shrunk.  Far from being in dread of global warming, we should be looking forward to it :  warmth nurtures life ;  cold is inimical to it.

    We are in a warm period between glaciations (‘ice ages’ in popular diction, although not true ice ages).  We cannot predict the extent of the warm period or when or how quickly the next glaciation will start.  The last (or current) glaciation peaked far enough in the past that we ought reasonably to expect to enter the next one soon.

    The cold weather we have seen recently — here in U.K., in Russia, across North America — is likely just a collection of extreme-weather events but we don’t actually know enough about the manifold drivers of the Earth’s climate to be sure ;  it might be the onset of that next glaciation.  The misanthropists that promote the a.g.w. fraud would have us believe these events, along with everything else, result not just from ‘global warming’ but — and this is the crucial point — from anthropogenic global warming.

    Man has a better chance of influencing the fall of the dice in a crap game than of changing the climate.  Despite that, we’ve all wound up in the middle of the environmentalists’ ‘crap’ game.


  8. Well, Bozza, I could bang on blaming the tories for everything, but I give it a couple of years before everyone else detests them as much as I do, or two weeks if Gove is on the telly every day. Instead I will point out that my RSS feed produces the beginning of your blogs, and ends them with a “….”. Today it ended with “and looking down at my …”.
    I thought you had given up your normal nonsense, as only six of us read it, and moved on to soft porn. I was almost relieved to find that I was wrong. I can’t decide whether your attempts to reach a new market would be any worse than your daft political ramblings, but I would be less likely to read them. My advice is to keep on churning out the 19th century nonsense. There are obviously still some out there deluded enough to agree.

  9. As usual Boris you have spoken for the people and not the government.
    Let me enlighten you to a disabled drivers predicament.
    With the increase in fuel duty and VAT I can no longer afford to run my motorbility car .
    The government give me an allowance to lease the car but does not give me enough money to put fuel in it!.
    So the car sits on my driveway for 13 out of 14 days and this is supposed to keep me mobile.
    I am tempted to contact the court of human rights as this duty is infringing my ability to remain mobile and is causing me great distress.
    But as it would cost the taxpayer more money we haven’t got.
    I have to suffer but not in silence.

  10. Boris Johnson added: “If I were the Government, I would think seriously about that fuel duty stabiliser, because when it costs more to fill your tank than to fly to Rome, something is seriously wrong.”

    What an utterly silly statement.

    When a box of chocolates costs more than a transistor radio, something is seriously wrong.

  11. HJI7 said the Mayor was a hippo, no I mean HJI7 called the Mayor a hypocrite, because the Mayor was driving a Toyota Previa, a very large car which consumes a lots of petrol.

    Can HJI7 imagine the Mayor in a mini?

  12. Can you imagine the Mayor’s diplomat convoy looking like this: One lonely “vintage” mini with burly, hippocryte Boris and a burly English chauffeur hunching in the front and two burly English body guards hunching in the back?

    It’s folks driving big, “tough” looking, fuel guzzling vehicles with a massive set of head lights on top of their cab in… English towns and English cities who should be mentioned. Are they going to a nature reserve somewhere in Africa? Are they going to hunt down kangaroos? Nah, they are only going to Tesco to buy a loaf of bread!

  13. You said have a peek at Tessa June’s Joshep amazing technicolor draincoat and my winter blues will disappear? Well I did have a quick peek but I’m still depressed about the fuel prices and I can’t get up. Help.

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