Thursday, 28 August 2008

Why creating a fairer society can't mean cheaper petrol

News today that the Taxpayers' Alliance thinks the Government should intervene in the oil market so we can enjoy cheaper petrol.

Of course no one wants to pay more for anything, especially in these times of rising prices. The cost of housing, food and fuel – for heating our homes as well as getting us about – are all skyrocketing, while wages fail to keep up.

It’s vital that we urgently address these economic woes, and that means changing the way we do business on a whole range of fronts: reining in the vast profits of the energy companies with windfall taxes, improving public transport (and making it more affordable with public subsidies) – and tackling fuel poverty by ensuring everyone has access to better energy efficiency measures to keep our homes warm (domestic insulation should be free for everyone, for example).

We should be promoting locally-produced food – as Green councillors have made sure Brighton and Hove’s schools will be doing. The shorter the journey from farm yard to dinner plate, the lower the cost of food – as rising fuel prices lead to imported produce being more costly.

And as for the chaos in the housing market, we must introduce tough new regulations on the banking sector – to stop the financial fat-cats who got us into this mess in the first place from gambling away any hard fought economic recovery – and call an immediate moratorium on all repossessions.

All of these measures will make life more affordable, sustainable, and fair.

But none of them will be able to make much difference to forecourt petrol prices.

Energy analysts are increasingly warning that we’re hitting the moment of ‘Peak Oil’ – at which demand increases faster than new oil-fields are being found. The law of supply and demand economics means this is bound to push prices up further. Who’d have thought a few months ago we’d be paying £1.40 a litre for unleaded before the summer was out? Well it’s only going to get worse.

Of course, the Government can tinker around with the rate at which at which petrol is taxed – and it can even subsidise the oil giants by paying them to produce more cheap fuel. But I believe that is short-sighted: as supplies dwindle it can only get more expensive to do this, and before long we’ll be facing the same problems as we are today but with higher tax bills and a little less in the treasury to help tackle it – and with the small matter of the increased greenhouse gas emissions that come with burning fossil fuels rather than seeking alternatives too.

Surely it’s better for us to start making the shift to a greener, cheaper, fairer, society now – and implement measures to make life a little more affordable, even if that means having to pay a little more for petrol on the forecourt?

No comments:

Post a Comment