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I assume Simon intended his article to be provocative - it certainly had the steam coming from my ears - the problem is that Challenge is not a good vehicle for discussion.

1) "tax motorists"  - there is not a human sub-species called "motorists" just an activity "driving". Fuel duty taxes an activity not a group of people. 

2) Net effect on households. Overall if the government revenues are not to change the costs to consumers will not change either but this would not be uniform. People who don't travel far would have the gas price increase but no petrol reduction. This change would be highly regressive.

3) True costs - the problem is that houses last longer than cars. A high price for petrol should encourage people to buy thrifty cars. A glance around at all the big thirsty penis-substitutes on the road suggests that the duty should be higher. If gas prices are raised and you live in a rented property with poor insulation it is more difficult to respond. If you live in any house more than 70 years old there is a limited chance of modification short of pull down and re-build. 

4) "Road haulage and distribution will get a boost" - hands up everybody who wants to see more lorries on the road !

There is a case for a carbon tax but to avoid unintended consequences:

1) It should be levied on the carbon footprint of imports.

2) It should be revenue neutral so balanced by a flat-rate rebate. That would make it progressive rather than regressive. ( Hansen has suggested this)

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Replies to This Discussion

You should be careful what you go around assuming about people.

1) As I say in the article, fuel duty is a tax on productivity - GDP. An activity, not a group of people.

2) The change might well be regressive if it's handled badly. However, heating costs can be reduced without giving up your job or moving house. Commuting costs cannot. Meanwhile benefits are linked to the cost of living, which includes the cost of domestic energy. They are therefore a built-in counter-measure to protect the less well off.

3) Figures vary, but most have it at around 45% of UK emissions coming from our leaky, badly insulated housing stock. With the Green Deal as a carrot (something you appear to be ignoring, despite it being a flagship libdem green policy), a carbon tax on domestic emissions will act as a stick incentive to accelerate the take-up of retrofits as well as domestic renewable energy - as you say, houses are around for a lot longer than cars, so they need fixing sooner. Transport emissions by comparison are about 25% and falling, thanks to improved efficiency and the move now under way to electrification.

4) Hands up everyone who wants to see food prices less vulnerable to oil price spikes? My argument was about reason, not emotion. There is nothing inherently wrong with a distribution system based on roads. In the absence of a viable alternative, it's all we've got. What we need is to make it low-carbon, which means electric trucks with swap-able batteries for unlimited range.

1) Are you saying that all fuel use is productive ? (obviously buying it add to GDP but most Greens are questioning of the significance of GDP anyway)

2) Relying on benefits to counter the regressive nature of the change hits the "squeezed middle" (or is it alarm clock Britain ?).

Given that about 70% of journeys to work in England and Wales in 2001 were six miles and under, a lot of people could reduce their commuting costs simply by getting a bicycle.

3) My forgetting about it does show something about the Green Deal. Research into a straightforward system for insulating solid walls that any builder can get certified for would be more concrete.

Perhaps the improved efficiency of engines might be related to fuel costs - pity that the achievement is sabotaged by cars getting bigger.

4) I believe that it was Hume who pointed out that all action was due to emotion (passions) not reason. Actually the economic argument just gives primacy to a particular passion. Higher fuel costs encourage the minimisation of transporting goods around and so should be less affected by oil price spikes. One disadvantage with a distribution system based on public roads is that too many people are killed and many are discouraged from active travel.



Paul Luton said:

1) Are you saying that all fuel use is productive ? (obviously buying it add to GDP but most Greens are questioning of the significance of GDP anyway)

2) Relying on benefits to counter the regressive nature of the change hits the "squeezed middle" (or is it alarm clock Britain ?).

Given that about 70% of journeys to work in England and Wales in 2001 were six miles and under, a lot of people could reduce their commuting costs simply by getting a bicycle.

3) My forgetting about it does show something about the Green Deal. Research into a straightforward system for insulating solid walls that any builder can get certified for would be more concrete.

Perhaps the improved efficiency of engines might be related to fuel costs - pity that the achievement is sabotaged by cars getting bigger.

4) I believe that it was Hume who pointed out that all action was due to emotion (passions) not reason. Actually the economic argument just gives primacy to a particular passion. Higher fuel costs encourage the minimisation of transporting goods around and so should be less affected by oil price spikes. One disadvantage with a distribution system based on public roads is that too many people are killed and many are discouraged from active travel.

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