Leading article: Fuel for thought

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The Independent Online

Bean counters at Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs seem to think that anyone who puts vegetable oil in their petrol tank must be a slippery customer. The duty on vegetable oils as a fuel has been hiked from 27.1p to 47.1p a litre in an effort to stop people avoiding their responsibilities to pay an eye-watering amount of fuel tax like everyone else. What was once a remarkably cheap alternative fuel now becomes more expensive than diesel.

But the Government is missing a trick. This is precisely the sort of practice Tony Blair and Gordon Brown should be supporting through the tax system. The use of vegetable oil in cars is environmentally friendly because it produces no greenhouse emissions, unlike petrol and diesel. It would also encourage the production of a clean source of fuel at a time when global oil reserves are diminishing. And there is a grass-roots demand for it, unlike other environmentally friendly schemes like wind farms. No one needs much encouragement to pay less at the pumps. So what's not to like about it?

The Government looks more concerned with raking in fuel tax income than discouraging people from polluting their environment. This undermines the entire green principle of the fuel escalator, which since the mid-1990s has ensured that the price at the pumps rises every year. Why does the Government not follow the lead of Germany, where there is no tax whatsoever on vegetable oil fuel?

Running your vehicle on vegetable oil may make your car smell like a mobile chip shop, but the only whiff of fish is coming from the Government's claim to be operating a green transport policy.