Greens to stage rival action in favour of high taxes

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Environmental groups are preparing to challenge the fuel protesters with counter demonstrations at fuel refineries and on motorways.

Environmental groups are preparing to challenge the fuel protesters with counter demonstrations at fuel refineries and on motorways.

Friends of the Earth are preparing to mount demonstrations with banners and placards to alert the public to the "green benefits" of fuel taxes. "We are going to challenge them to public debates and have demonstrations showing that fuel taxes have positive effects for the environment," said Tony Juniper, of Friends of the Earth.

The move is part of a concerted effort by green groups to launch a visible defence of the Government's stance on fuel. During September's blockades John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, was angry with environmental pressure groups' lack of support.

Greenpeace are mobilising campaigners, who have taken part in direct actions in the North Sea and on the Rainbow Warrior, to mount demonstrations at sites around Britain where fuel protesters plan their blockades. It has put campaigners on alert to mount a "visible presence" at fuel blockades, so the counter argument of the environmental benefits of fuel taxes will be promoted.

Greenpeace plans to identify the ringleaders of the fuel protests so they can enter into "peaceful and non-confrontational" debate. "We are going out into the field. It's a fluid situation, but wherever the protesters show up we will go," said a spokesman. "We will be very clearly badged as Greenpeace. We will stay as long as they stay. Sleeping out in the cold holds no terrors for us."

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds will also make the case for fuel taxes. It has produced a poll showing that half of the public believe that motor fuel should be taxed for environmental reasons. But more than 83 per cent of people surveyed by the RSPB's market research team believe that current motor vehicle tax rates are "too high".

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