Driving On Our Roads – What Does The Future Hold?
Environmental issues have never been higher on the agenda than today and with this has come concerted pressure on the motorist. Deemed as one of the most highly polluting sources of pollution, the question has now fallen on how to shift people away from their cars. Initiated by the Stern Review, a number of additional schemes have either been introduced or are currently being planned, leading to the question of what does the future hold for the motorist?
The Stern Review stated one overriding conclusion, that the world must act now on climate change or face devastating consequences. Unfortunately it also appears that this action is going to lead to devastating consequences for motorists. Various proposals in the Stern Review were suggested, including introducing a fuel-price stabilizer, meaning when fuel prices they will never be able to fall again, and per mile road charging.
Taking a deeper look into each proposal uncovers fundamental flaws. Artificially setting prices has never made economic sense and furthermore, the fuel price stabilizer would simply have the effect of desensitizing people from changes in the fuel price. Consider a huge rise in fuel prices which subsequently fall but this fall is not reflected in the price. People become used to this new higher price and when they see that it stays at this level for many months they become used to it, never lowering their consumption, even if fuel prices then begin to gradually rise.
Then there’s per mile road charging. As it stands people are charged on a per mile basis – the further one drives the more fuel they use and the more they pay. Is this not a ploy to generate even more revenue and prepare for a time when cars no longer run on fuel? If everyone was to suddenly switch to electric cars the government would lose a vital source of revenue. Per mile road charging could fill in the shortfall, brought in under the umbrella of concern for the environment.
A couple of new road charges have been brought in. The first, to be introduced in Richmond-upon-Thames, is that homeowners will be charged a fee to park their vehicle outside their homes, the value of the charge depending on the type of car they own. Residents’ parking restrictions, initially introduced to help homeowners park outside their homes, are suddenly being turned against the very people they were meant to help.
The London Congestion charge has already risen to £8 a day from its original £5 a day, and proposals were unveiled recently to charge so-called “gas-guzzlers” £25 a day to drive into Central London. An extortionate amount by anyone’s standards.
However, something has to be done to protect the environment so what’s wrong with making a start and pricing polluting motorists and vehicles off the road? It’s certainly hard to argue against the fact that some cars do pollute large amounts of greenhouse gases and they should be discouraged. But isn’t the real fact to emerge from all this that the car driver is simply an easy target? Infrastructure is already in place whereby large additional taxes can be introduced whilst many people have little choice but to use their car, meaning that the revenue generated from these taxation schemes will be significant. Even the Stern Review undermines its argument against the motorist by producing figures showing that transport is responsible for 14% of all the emissions of greenhouse gases in the UK. Transport that includes car travel, lorries, buses, trains, ships and aircrafts. In addition, the argument is that economic growth will suffer if we fail to act now. This simply neglects the effect of imposing huge taxes on motorists, seriously inhibiting people’s ability to travel to work and help the economy, and this is all without even mentioning a certain rapidly growing country – China.