Thousands expected to join petrol boycott

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The Independent Online

An Essex computer expert expects thousands of motorists all over Britain to respond to his call for a boycott today of petrol stations all over Britain.

An Essex computer expert expects thousands of motorists all over Britain to respond to his call for a boycott today of petrol stations all over Britain.

Garry Russell, 39, a website designer who owns two cars, is masterminding the "dump the pump" campaign that is urging drivers to demonstrate their solidarity over high fuel prices.

The internet initiative has attracted the support of the Freight Transport Association, which is backing a cavalcade of about 200 slow-moving lorries organised by the Hauliers' and Farmers' Alliance, which is to descend on Dover this morning.

Small business organisations are also backing the protest. Nearly nine in 10 small firms support the boycott, according to a poll by the Forum of Private Businesses.

"The fact that owners of small companies are prepared to join this direct action demonstrates the damage that high fuel prices are having on profitability," said the forum's chief executive, Nick Goulding.

Tabloid newspapers are also urging motorists to "dump the pump", endorsing the campaign's call to do the same every Monday from now on until prices come down.

Friends of the Earth yesterday emerged as an unlikely supporter of today's planned boycott, but the environmental pressure group's backing was more ironic than sincere. Tony Bosworth, transport campaigner for the group, hoped that drivers would not only forsake the forecourt, but leave their cars at home as well, thus saving a day's contribution to global warming.

Sceptics doubted whether many motorists would take part and even if they did, what impact the protest would have on oil companies, considering drivers would fill their tanks on other days.

Cyclists were today expecting to stage their own "dump the pump for good" demonstrations with five separate bike rides into central London urging motorists to forsake the car for pedal power.

There were some signs that petrol prices were already coming down. Supermarkets started the ball rolling last week with cuts of around 2p a litre to 79.9p, and some of the oil giants seemed to be following suit.

Price reductions will be welcome news to the Government because August is a key month for calculating the cost of living, and petrol costs are an important element in the equation.

The RAC urged ministers to cut the level of tax, which has added to fuel price increases caused by the rising cost of crude oil. Although concerned that the protest could lead to the closure of some rural petrol stations, the RAC is backing measures to bring prices down.

The RAC Foundation, the organisation's campaigning arm, wants the Government to consider a different level of taxation for urban and rural areas. The foundation's executive director, Edmund King, said: "Dump the pump is a one-day gesture. What we need are fiscal measures to help rural, disabled, elderly, families and businesses beat the crisis."