Is it time to 'dump the pump'?
CAMPAIGNERS FOR lower petrol prices launched a nationwide protest to "dump the pump" this week. The campaign is backed by the Tory party, the right wing press and the truck business lobby, the Freight Transport Association. They hope to exploit popular feeling over the high price of petrol to press the government to cut fuel taxes. The Tories want to use the issue to rebuild support.
None of these organisations give a damn about the impact of petrol prices on ordinary people. Nick Golding of the Forum of Private Business admitted that the real agenda was the "damage that high fuel prices are having on profitability". These people want more cars on the road.
They ignore the real threat to the environment from resulting pollution and the greenhouse gas emissions which contribute to global warming. The government ought to be taking action to curb car and road traffic. Yet this is not why it taxes fuel.
Gordon Brown axed the fuel duty escalator, which automatically pushed up petrol prices supposedly to curb greenhouse gas emissions. And why doesn't the government tax big business directly? The oil companies can afford it. Exxon, for example, made $4.5 billion profit in the last three months.
But New Labour won't touch these profits. It even backed down in the face of business pressure over its climate change levy on the worst business contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. Many ordinary people are hit by fuel prices. They have no choice but to use a car, thanks to the awful state of public transport. The answer is not to slash petrol taxes or allow right wing forces to drive society to greater dependence on cars.
The government could tackle car use and help the environment by pouring investment into public transport. Instead its transport plans announced two weeks ago threw billions more into road building.