Targetting Motorists

22 Nov, 2006 | Global PoliticsTravelTdp

It's been a long held belief of mine and many other people in the UK that our government targets motorists as easy prey when it comes to things like emissions and fuel tax. I was reading an article about how they've converted a trawler to run on vegetable oil when I cam across this statistic:

The environmental benefits of using biofuel on vessels would be vast, as a typical diesel-powered trawler on a 10-day trip emits 37 tonnes of the greenhouse gas.

In contrast, running a family car for a year would result in a comparably small emission of two tonnes of CO2.

So one 10-day trip in a trawler equates to roughly 18 cars being run for a year. Lets say they only run the trawler for 25 days a month. That's 92.5 tonnes of CO2 a month, or 1110 a year, that's equivalent to 555 cars, and they get duty free fuel. According to Defra, there were 6,341 registered fishing vessels in 2005, that's equivalent to 7,038,510 tonnes of CO2 or 3,519,255 cars. Now imagine how much the big ships pump out.

It gets worse, apparently, in a round-trip from London to New York and 747 will emit roughly 447 tonnes (440 tons) of CO2. That's equivalent to about 223 cars for a year. As pointed out by this article from The Times, there is no VAT on aviation fuel, or tickets, or planes:

Far from trying to rein back on this insane expansion, most countries are subsidising it — to the tune of about £30 billion a year in Europe alone. There is no VAT on aviation fuel, no VAT on new aircraft and no VAT on ticket sales. In Britain, airlines would have to pay £5 billion a year if they were taxed at the same rate as motorists. Since they do not, tickets cost about 42 per cent less than they did ten years ago, and the number of people who fly is expected to double over the next 15 years. We are, in effect, subsidising an industry that is poisoning our planet, in the name of another industry — tourism — that will, of course, be the first to suffer from the poisoning of our planet.

I realise it's not a cut and dried thing, the ships catch food, the aircraft keep us up on global trade, but with the exchequer threatening per mile charging for motorists I'd like to see some leveling of the playing field versus other forms of transport. You wouldn't mind if they were using it to repair the roads, subsidise trains and buses, increase public transport routes and the rate of services, but they're using it to prop up underfunded areas like the NHS and schools.