Why we shouldn't chase cheap fuel

Share

There's panic buying at some petrol stations this weekend as drivers fear imminent price rises or forecourts running dry, due to the blockades in France and Britain. The Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, was accused of fearing the wrath of protesters who believe that the £4 gallon is inevitable as he cancelled two scheduled appearances in Liverpool yesterday.

There's panic buying at some petrol stations this weekend as drivers fear imminent price rises or forecourts running dry, due to the blockades in France and Britain. The Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, was accused of fearing the wrath of protesters who believe that the £4 gallon is inevitable as he cancelled two scheduled appearances in Liverpool yesterday.

Here we go again, the doomsayers cry. Another oil price "shock" looms as the greedy Opec ministers meet in Vienna this weekend to put the screws on the poor motorist. Already the sticky black stuff is at a 10-year high price of $35 a barrel. It could go up to $40. Our economies will collapse if the relentless rise in petrol prices is not halted.

A persuasive argument, but wrong. As Corporal Jones might have it, "don't panic". In real terms, oil is not that expensive. It is well below its value during the 1990 Gulf War, and has halved in price since the 1981 "shock". Despite the expected price hike, Western inflation forecasts remain fairly low, buffeted far more by the cheap euro than by expensive oil. Oil is a scarce resource, which takes millions of years to form and only seconds to burn - polluting as it does so. Many countries are investing in cleaner alternatives: if this "shock" speeds up the process, that is welcome.

The protests in France are withering, thanks to the French government's willingness to cave in. Those in England and Wales are pointless, since most of the refined oil leaves Ellesmere Port and Milford Haven by pipeline rather than truck. The demonstrators have got the wrong target anyway. Most of the cost of petrol at the pumps is taken in tax. Again, it may not be popular to say so, but we think that's good - so long as the revenue is properly spent.

When the Tories created the "fuel escalator", ensuring yearly rises in the taxation from petrol, a trade-off in terms of better public transport was promised. But the promised improvements that were to follow bus deregulation and rail privatisation have - like so many buses and trains - failed to appear on time, and the Labour Chancellor, Gordon Brown, abolished the "escalator". Mr Prescott's 10-year plan for transport includes many of the same old promises, but we're asked to wait a decade for results.

As Independent on Sunday readers have noted during our Passenger Power campaign, rural motorists are forced to pay through the nose for petrol. They are offered little public alternative to the car. Many of them would welcome the opportunity to "dump the pump", not for one futile day, but for good - if only a cheap, regular alternative existed.

The Government should ignore the cries of the road hauliers, restore the fuel escalator and ring-fence all the revenue to invest in public transport, starting with an immediate boost to frequent, rural bus services.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

Read Next
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012  

Vote Tory and you’re voting for the rich to get richer and the poor to get poorer

Mark Steel
 

If I were Prime Minister: I'd end the war on drugs

Patrick Hennessey
General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants