Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Petrol prices push us over the edge
The petrol station wanted to charge me £1.42.9 per litre. I can’t think in litres but I knew that was a lot of money. I’ve now worked it out. They wanted to charge me £6.48 per gallon. What an outrage.
I didn’t stop. Instead I wasted some of my precious fuel driving five miles down the road to another one where the price was £1.35.9 – a mere £6.20 per gallon.
It seems I’m not the only one balking at the high price of petrol. We’re all shopping around for lower prices, apparently.
Sometimes we are so reluctant to fork out for over-priced fuel we cruise around, even if the gauge is on red, until we run out altogether and have to call the AA.
We can’t go on like this – yet the price of petrol only ever goes up.
Admittedly it can fluctuate, and sometimes it does fall a little, but the trend is obvious. The price of oil is high and it’s likely to keep on rising.
Who is to blame and what are we to do?
We can always drive more slowly to save fuel. The up-side is it may make the roads safer but, if you stick to the speed limit already, it’s difficult to go much more slowly anyway.
Have you tried sticking to 70 on a motorway? It’s a nightmare. You’re going more slowly than almost everyone else and even in the slow lane you find massive lorries bearing down on you as if they’re in that old Steven Spielberg movie “Duel”.
We could trade in our gas-guzzlers for environmentally-friendly eco-cars. I’ve tried that but the advertised 63 miles per gallon for a Volvo V50 turns out to be a disappointing 51 or 52.
Try as I might, I can’t get better fuel consumption than 54 mpg even if I do 30 on a dual carriageway – and who in their right mind does that?
We could try working from home but for most of us, most of the time, that’s impossible.
You have to go to meetings, meet customers and clients, work with other people or with machinery which won’t fit inside the average spare room. Home-working is a nice idea but mostly impractical.
There is always public transport, of course. Some journeys are best made by train and bus but most are not.
For the majority of us, it’s not an option no matter how much cheaper it may be than driving – even if you can stand the long delays, inconvenience, discomfort and unreliability of most services not to mention the indifference of the service-providers.
Given the chaos in the main oil-producing countries of the Middle East, the day of the £2 litre can’t be too far off.
Unfortunately, we depend on oil from corrupt and unstable countries. A quarter of world supplies come from the absolute monarchy of Saudi Arabia, 10 per cent from the mad mullahs of Iran, 8.6 per cent from Iraq.
Few of the world’s oil-supplying nations can be trusted to keep selling us with reasonably-priced crude. And even if they could, most of it is being bought up by the new superpower of China.
Even so, it is possible to cut the price of petrol and stop it rising ever-higher. Thanks to Government taxes, Britain has the second most expensive petrol in the world.
Only in Holland do they pay more – and they get about on bicycles because it’s so flat.
Despite all the oil price rises, without tax the cost of a litre would be just over 50p.
Another 1p tax increase is due next month though Chancellor George Osborne may well cancel that in his Budget on March 23.
We shouldn’t be grateful if he does because January’s VAT increase added almost 3p a litre to the price.
Of course the Government must pay off the massive debts Gordon Brown left behind.
But the price of petrol is now so high it isn’t just forcing ordinary motorists off the roads, it’s adding massively to business costs, making Britain even more uncompetitive.
With the economy in the car park, if not heading for the scrap yard, our promised “Budget for growth” must do something about the way fuel taxes are holding back the whole country.
Forcing us out of our cars has always been the aim of the green environmental do-gooders who dominate Government these days.
Even they, though, might worry we still don’t have a viable alternative to the internal combustion engine.
Electric cars are unlikely ever to become a practical option – and, anyway, until we build a new generation of nuclear power plants, generating electricity will itself be environmentally unfriendly.
Drivers are an easy target for tax-gatherers but petrol prices are becoming prohibitive.
At £2 a litre our roads, rather like the Ritz, would still be open to everyone – but only the rich will use them.
And as long as the whole economy depends on road travel to keep it moving, our politicians will have to do better than cancelling a 1p rise in fuel duty.
Either that or we’ll all have to take up horse-riding.