Symbolic campaign to decrease fuel tax hailed as success by supporters, and a failure by environmentalists
Friends of the Earth (FoE) has expressed quiet satisfaction at the failure of the Boycott-the-Pump campaign to inspire widespread public backing, whilst the campaign organisers regard the event as an historic beginning to the UK motorist’s message to parliament that they have finally had enough of high fuel taxes.
“All across the country motorists joined our boycott of petrol stations showing unilateral support towards our mission of forcing the government to reduce fuel taxation,” said campaign organiser, Garry Russell. “The campaign featured as top news feature throughout the country, giving our campaign a massive boost, enabling our rational of boycotting petrol stations on 1 August, then every Monday, an incredible kick start.”
According to the Boycott-the-Pumps campaign, figures from 132 petrol stations around the UK showed a 38% reduction in daily turnover on Tuesday, with a 40% awareness of the campaign, 92% of customers viewing the level of fuel tax as excessive and wishing to see it driven down.
Tuesday represented the best opportunity for UK motorists to stand up and be counted, said Russell. “August 1st was just the start, the beginning of a truly focused campaign aimed at helping every motorist in the UK truly understand that only in standing unilaterally behind each other will we see the changes we deserve.”
Motorists pay nothing like the real cost of their motoring, says FoE, who clam that the total cost of road transport to the environment is £42 billion per year, and therefore not covered by the £23 billion raised in tax from road transport. Neither, they say, has the real cost of motoring changed over the last 25 years, though train fares have increased by 53%, and bus fares by 87%.
“The Dump the Pump campaign will do nothing to help rural communities, poorer households, or the environment,” said FoE Transport Campaigner, Tony Bosworth. “That’s why it’s been widely ignored by people up and down the country. We hope the campaign will now meet a decent, quick and obscure end.”
Friends of the Earth also believe that the view that lower petrol prices will solve motorists’ problems is misguided, and does nothing to tackle congestion, nor to address problems such as air pollution and accidents. The over-all cost of motoring can also be higher in other European countries, they say, through road tolls and higher vehicle tax.
Fifty nine percent of Britain’s poorest households do not own a car, claims FoE, nor do 42% of the poorest households in rural areas, and so would not benefit from fuel price cuts. For those in rural areas who are suffering, says FoE, more money should be invested in public transport, and in keeping open local rural services such as shops, post offices and doctor’s surgeries to reduce the need to travel. Other schemes such as a graded council tax rebate would also assist rural areas, says FoE.
“The pressure must now be put on the Government, to show that the money from fuel taxation is being spent on improving our trains, running more bus services, and helping make our streets safe for cyclists and pedestrians,” said Bosworth. “Britain’s transport crisis needs a green solution, not the simplistic slogan peddled by Dump the Pump.”
The Treasury also appears to be unmoved by the boycott. “The Chancellor abandoned the fuel escalator in the budget, so any increase at the pump is a result of increasing world oil prices,” a Treasury spokesperson told edie.
Opposition parties have nevertheless taken the opportunity to hit out at the Government. “Labour promised to be the greenest government ever,” said Damian Green MP, Conservative Environment Spokesman. “They have hit the motorist with exorbitant petrol taxation, which has failed to reduce traffic and congestion. We need tax incentives not tax increases to encourage greener behaviour.” According to the Conservative Party, there should be tax cuts for greener fuels such as liquefied petroleum gas, compressed natural gas, biodiesel, and ultra low sulphur diesel.