The Effect of Fuel Taxes on Emissions

by William Yeatman on October 31, 2000

in Blog

Britain is still trying to deal with the general discontent among its citizens over high fuel taxes. It has been reported that Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown may propose gasoline tax cuts in his next budget. Conservative Party leader William Hague has already proposed a 3 pence per liter cut in gasoline taxes.

Environmental activists have complained about the proposed reductions. Jonathon Porritt, chairman of the governments new Sustainable Development Commission, accused Prime Minister Tony Blair of failing to convince the British populace of the merits of high gas taxes to fight global warming.

A column in the Daily Express (October 30, 2000), however, argues that fuel taxes do little to change fuel use. “Quite a few pence here or there will make hardly any difference to the amount of petrol consumed, particularly when our railways have never been in a worse position to offer a feasible alternative,” said editorialist Richard North. “Influencing the behavior of British motorists now will probably have much less impact on the worlds climate than even a skeptical public supposes.”

North points out that in 1994 the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution claimed that a doubling of gasoline prices would reduce the number of cars on the road. But, said North, “Petrol prices have more than doubled since 1990,” without reducing the number of automobiles. Indeed, “Weve seen continuing year-on-year increases in traffic,” says Britains Automobile Association.

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