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Monday, 11 September, 2000, 11:16 GMT 12:16 UK
Escalating petrol prices - who's to blame?
The cost of petrol looks likely to rise - with oil fetching its highest price on the international markets for a decade.
Some forecasts say drivers in the UK could be paying up to four pence more per litre by the weekend.
Petrol pumps are running dry in France as farmers block oil refineries in protest at the high fuel costs.
The European Union has urged the oil-producing countries belonging to Opec to increase production to bring prices down. But Opec says European governments have only themselves to blame for charging too much tax.
Who do you think is to blame and what should be done? Send us your views.
This debate is now closed. You can read a selection of your views below. Or you can contribute to our new Talking Point:
It's a real pain having petrol stations running dry with the risk of not being able to make it to work. However, I think it's worth it to make the government see that they cannot continue to fleece the British public with these extortionate levels of tax.
When we complained about car prices to the EEC they told the parties responsible for the higher prices to cut the cost or face fines. Why don't we ask them to do the same with petrol prices. The EEC believe in trying to have a level playing field, our government like us to play up hill and in to the wind, it's time for them to listen to the people who employ them the people of the UK.
Higher prices do not reduce car usage. According to previous comments, the UK has the highest fuel prices in Europe, yet also the highest per capita car ownership. The only way to reduce car usage is to invest in a massive way in public transport. Make the trains cheaper, and more importantly, more efficient and convenient, then maybe I'll start using them.
Gillian Carcas, England
Petrol is more expensive here but at least we have a first class public transport system. UK is too large to provide a decent PTS for the whole country. I say TAX by regional density. Tax London more than the rural areas. Also, bring in road tolls. As long as this Tax is used to build better public transport and cleaner technology, it should be OK with everyone. Our children's children are relying on us to preserve the eco-system for them. Tax on fuel is a short-term sacrifice for health of our kids. Stop the WHINGING!
Steve Williams, Australia
Please remember that every time the cost of fuel goes up, then so does the cost of food.
What do you think powers the tractors and combines that harvest your food or the trucks that transport it to the supermarkets?
We complain about the 300% tax on fuel for transport, but remember you are also paying part of that tax with every potato you buy.
How can anyone put blame at the door of OPEC? The same litre of the same fuel for the same cars from the same pumps costs much less elsewhere in the world. That is due to tax levied by the administration, not any increases in price or reductions in production from OPEC. It's like telling tobacco firms to slash their prices because tax is high. What right have we got to tell the OPEC states what to do? They sell oil just as we sell goods to the rest of the world. They are a business, not a charity to help out Tony Blair when he wants to profiteer.
Being a person who lives in a remote part of the UK and also having a severely handicapped daughter, I have to use a car as public transport is almost non-existent. The cost to me every week by using a car is so high that it is almost out of my reach but unfortunately I have no alternative but to buy petrol. If the Chancellor was in my situation would he still have the same views?
Why bother with alternative fuels? The new kinds of fuel will just be taxed instead... the UK government would tax water if that made your car go! Gordon Brown's announcement on 9 Sept that the government would not be swayed by blockades is just another way of saying that it will not listen to any protests about the pain and problems they're causing, so don't even bother trying getting in their way. Lets face it, in France blockading roads gets concessions - in Britain it'd just get you arrested!
David Page, UK
Val Phillips, Wales
So it's the rising cost of crude oil that's pushing petrol prices up, is it? Would someone like to give a plausible explanation, then, of when crude was under $10 a barrel petrol in the UK didn't fall to suit? Claiming that "the raw material is such a small proportion of the cost at the pumps" really doesn't convince me; the effect of an oil price rise always has an effect - on the motorist's pocket!
It is always easy and safe to blame the government. But have you car-owners ever thought to ask car-manufacturers one simple question: why are we still, after so many decades, dependent on ridiculously old-fashioned internal-combustion engine? Maybe this time Mr. Blair is innocent.
Oh, more moaning about fuel tax. Don't the public realise that we need oil to make more important things than fuel for cars?
I'm delighted that some truck drivers are blockading refineries here in the U.K.
The public should support this. I would favour some sort of fund to be set up to accept public donations to be used to meet financial commitments and support the families of these drivers. They need our support !
Who would do it ?
The current protests really annoy me. Of course all drivers would like to pay less for fuel. However, no one is asking where the money should come from. Should income taxes be raised by a penny in the pound? Or should the planned increases in NHS and education spending be cancelled?
Given that we are producing greenhouse gases at an unsustainable rate, surely we should tax things that are undesirable (such as burning fossil fuels) rather than things that are desirable (such as income). I for one would be happy to see petrol prices increase in return for a reduction in income tax.
There have been wars for a lot less than securing cheap resources for a nation(s).
Rising costs in crude oil have simply highlighted the extent to which this deeply dishonest government has been fleecing the motorist. Interesting, isn't it that both the transport spokesmen are "Lords", i.e. un-elected Tony's cronies.
Rob of the UK claims that if Petrol Prices fall then the NHS will suffer. Complete rubbish; this is a typical move by the PM and people like Rob swallow it whole and then spout it out like gospel (he's clearly a bit too "New" Labour). The NHS should be paid for by Income Tax, which nobody can avoid. If Petrol pays for the NHS then the poor, sick, rural and dependents pay for it instead of the whole nation. If the govt needs more for the NHS then be honest, say so and raise income tax.
Richard Chamberlain, UK
Forget talking about 75% tax. The raw price of petrol in 20p; fuel tax and VAT add 60p to bring it to the current 80p. That makes the
overall tax burden 300%. NOTHING should be taxed at that rate - end of argument.
The nature of fuel tax is seriously regressive - it hits the poorest and most needy worst. People like me who do lots of travel with our work get the cost back, and big executives and government ministers usually get ALL of their fuel paid for them. Tax the poor to the benefit of the rich - where's your social justice now Tony?
In the U.S., during the Second World War, a sign at every petrol pump asked, "Is this trip necessary?" The problem with this kind of concerted, government-sponsored program of self-restraint today is that the world's so-called "energy" (oil companies) who are as much a "cartel would never permit it.
Mark Stone, Canada
Given that the UK pays more for fuel than any other western country I can think of, I would certainly not blame the oil producers given that most of the public has no idea of the ridiculously low price of refined petrol. I would certainly encourage that people pressured the current administration as well as investigate alternate fuel sources though.
The time is now right to ban the internal combustion engine. For each model of car on British roads the manufacturers should be forced to design an electric motor and batteries to fill the engine compartment. The cost of replacing the motors could be offset by selling them to communities in the developing world, to be used as generators for more useful purposes.
The slower cars would also be safer, quieter and OPEC would cease to have any influence over the UK.
Chris Porritt, England
For many like myself we agree that taxes have to come from somewhere to pay for public services. Yet every time OPEC raise prices Mr Brown rubs his hands together as this is extra tax on top of what he budgeted for, so my argument is if he has all this extra money how would he have coped had crude oil prices remained static? I would love to leave my car at home but I can't get to work on public transport because there simply is no service to my work location.
People always seem to forget one thing when complaining about fuel taxes in the UK. In many other countries you pay road tolls to use the motorways, and I am sure this more than compensates for the lower fuel prices in these other countries. Does anyone ever think about the massive pollution cost of driving a car?
Remember the 1970s when the UK had loads of industrial strikes? They used to call it 'the English disease'. Well given the current state of play in France and the way it is set to cripple their industry, are we now experiencing 'the French disease'? Just a thought.
It is about time the fiction of global warning and transport derived pollution was put to rest and our government be forced into reducing the greedy taxation on our fuel. Use your push bike (I do), use public transport (where available) but don't give up your car, it is no where near as bad for the environment as the loony left would have us think.
Ian Thomas, England
All this may be just a hint of what is to come. We cannot use finite resources without some limitation. However, if cheap fuel, and thus cheap travel becomes a thing of the past, people may be "forced" to live and work in small communities, and may just be happier as a result.
The people to blame are the British electorate. They demand low income tax and high value public services. So where is the money meant to come from??? You can't have your cake and eat it.
Get on the Underground and travel across the Circle/District line at 9am or 5pm and I guarantee that you will be willing to pay absolutely any amount in tax in order to never do that journey again.
I was so pleased to see the news report this morning of the Cheshire farmers, who are doing what they can to protest against this by blocking the entrance to a fuel refinery. We've got to see more of this across the UK if we are to get our message over to the Government. Gordon Brown is nothing more than a modern day Dick Turpin who is committing blatant Highway Robbery against us all, each and every day.
All of those smug cyclists and walkers make me mad. I have a nephew who has sever cerebral palsy. His mother has to drive more than 80 miles a day to take him to school and back again. As a result his mother is taxed much more heavily than if her son were able to attend a 'normal' school.
Jim Bevan, UK
What is so revealing here is the neo-Calvinism of the 'Greens'. Clearly, their underlying motivation isn't about people, it's about the hair-shirt pleasures of self-denial. Bicycles and public transport are irrelevant to rural life, in which people either use cars or are cast back into the lifestyle of the first half of the last century. Though it's painful to admit it, the French are right. Governments that are too arrogant to listen must be made to listen.
The sooner the price of petrol goes up the better off we will be, because new energy forms will not be developed while oil is economically viable. New energy forms will probably be more expensive than oil, at least initially, but they may be more acceptable environmentally.
I live in the Queensland outback approx 600 Km west of Brisbane and am paying about 34 of your pence per litre. In Aussie dollars about $1.05/l or about 2 pounds per gallon.
Every time I go to fill the tank (when I can afford to) the price has gone up again.
I have an option to walk I suppose but 60km round trip makes the options fairly limited.
I commiserate with you!
We seem to have this sense of entitlement for conflicting conveniences.
We want low fuel prices, a clean environment, convenient public transportation, etc. Based on the current economy and governmental policies, these objectives are not always achievable and we seem to be too short-sighted
to address them with the future in mind.
I have just returned from Libya where I was working at an oil terminal. In the township several kilometres away the local people had an above ground fuel tank that held approximately 20kl. There was a hose with petrol nozzle, and a large tin hanging by the side of it where you paid for the fuel on an honour system. The charge for the fuel was approximately $0.07, or about £0.04 per litre! Now what would you like to tell me about the price of fuel?
We support the action of the French drivers etc (and I'm a true-blue Tory businessman). If only we could be more like them.
Our governments have systematically wrecked our public transport systems over the past few years - so how can we use what no longer exists?
Give us reliable public transport and I'm sure many people would rejoice in NOT having to use their too-expensive private cars.
Steve Smith, UK
Placing high taxes on petrol in an attempt to cut pollution is like trying to kill a fly with a hammer. A much more sensible policy is either to tax road use in heavily congested areas (like central London) or to think very carefully about road design.
OPEC are certainly no fools. They choose their times very carefully too. 1973 was the time when the US became net importers of oil and since then they have been prudent. There is no reason to suspect that they are not being prudent now. No US political party has ever tried for government on the promise of raising gas prices to a realistic figure. Need I go on?
In the US we are taxed for petroleum products as you are in the UK. I don't know your tax rate but in the US the figure is a fixed percentage per gallon. In my opinion the blame for escalating prices can be placed squarely on OPEC. As far as we in the US are concerned when OPEC increases production the price comes down just as the price goes up when they cut back.
Wise up people! Start peddling, start walking, feel the benefits
both to your health and wallet.
I left the UK for Canada four months ago. The petrol price here has risen by about 40% in that time. The Canadians complain bitterly about this, although it's still less than 40 pence per litre. Despite the expense they still like their BIG cars and they drive them FAST.
New Labour should stop blaming "the previous administration" for the fuel tax escalator, as they have continued and even increased the rate of petrol tax hikes! What we need is a concerted public campaign - yes, using blockades if necessary - to show Tony that we can't be treated like dirt.
I live 32 miles from the nearest big town. I have to live here because I work here, but because there is only one bus an hour which takes an hour to get to the town, I have to use my car. Why is it fair that I should be forced to pay high taxes when I have no option but to use my car. This is a direct attack on rural life. Which by the way is the backbone of this country.
I also am laughing my head off at all these whiners as I also do not have a car. Petrol should be even more expensive than it is to compensate for all the damage its use does. I'm willing to debate this with anyone but most car owners refuse to acknowledge the damage their filthy contraption has done to the world.
You British accept rip-off prices for everything ranging from cars, CDs, replica football shirts. Now your government is ripping you off over fuel. What are you gonna do about it?? Put up or shut up!!
Hopefully, rising prices will provide a catalyst for more research into alternative energy sources, preparing us for the day - not far off - when there will be no petrol at any price.
As a car lover, I don't really like it, but we have to appreciate that some resources are finite and we have had too much of a good thing.
Neil H, UK
Frankly, I couldn't care less. A fine example, the French truckers and farmers have set - brining the entire country to its knees. I don't call that democracy.
It's about time the so-called prudent Chancellor used a bit of common sense in his policies. I'm just waiting for the smuggling of petrol to begin!!
The people to blame are the GOVERNMENT for taking 72% of petrol costs in tax. Tony claims that this is to pay for the NHS - rubbish. Labour tax petrol because they hate motorists. We, all taxpayers, should pay for the NHS through our income tax. Putting tax on petrol hits the poor, the elderly and those in rural areas. I'm afraid that this is Mr Blair's poll-tax-on-wheels and he'll regret it come polling day. I know who I won't be voting for anymore.
Unlucky greedy, polluting motorists wedded to your tin boxes! Get out and walk!
The public are to blame you just sit back and accept it.
It's your country run by the people you voted for, now
tell them you want lower fuel tax.....Mean time I'm
paying just 98p a gallon!
It's not Opec's fault. It's not government's fault. It's the fuel companies, who pay around 27$ for a certain amount of fuel and make over 100$ with that same quantity. Who could blame Opec for rising prices?
Unfortunately our social, transport and commercial structures have all been developed on the premise of unlimited cheap personal transport. This is no longer realistic, but new technologies such as the Internet should mean we don't have to 'return to the past'.
Andrew Day, UK
It is so annoying the amount of protest which is occurring in France yet we in Britain will not even support a protest like the boycott in August. The French are paying less than ourselves and are prepared to fight their corner, so should we. We should be at least brought into line with our friends across the Channel
It is stupid and very short sighted if the government do not lower taxation on fuel - everything thing that concerns the economy is regulated by fuel as food, clothes, heating, fishing, transport are all affected by fuel costs.
George Mealor, United States of America
This price fixing cartel should be treated the same way as any other price fixing cartel.
How can the Government claim to be keeping inflation down while the cost of Petrol continues to rocket. ALL FUEL should be included in Inflation figures because unlike Mr Blair we have to pay for it!
Perhaps if the tax on fuel went towards solving the problems (better mass transit, for instance) it would be tolerable, but I'm unwilling to pay yet more tax that gets wasted on stupid spending programs that the politicians use to buy votes.
Blake, Atlanta, USA
The government is to blame - they want us to use public transport, and hope that with high prices we will change. Every time the oil price goes up the public transport fares go up as well! Some encouragement! As it still means I pay more for public transport than using the car!
Oh please Richard from London: UK petrol prices are sky high but the villain of the piece is the USA! The simple fact is that, like so much else, you British are getting ripped-off. And any idea that your outrageous taxes on petrol is "green friendly" is belied by the fact that per capita motorcar use in the UK is just about the highest in the world; more than the USA.
Fantastic! The increases in petrol prices continue to drive the poor off the road, leaving more space for me to enjoy driving my gas guzzling jag. More, more!
The oil producers never pass price reductions on to the motorist. They are as guilty of profiteering as the government, and they get away with it time after time.
Ian Bailey, UK
I am a consultant covering over 35,000 business miles each year and have seen by annual fuel bill rise from £2000 to £2800. How angry am I about this? Not at all really, I ensure that my contract includes travel costs and just bill the customer for the increased costs. The funniest thing of all>>>>> My customer is the government!!!!
What gets me is the way it's priced. A huge chuck of it is tax - then they slap on another 17.5% as VAT. Which is in effect, a tax ON the tax.
So in response to this, governments should invest in alternative fuel sources like hydrogen and swap to this as soon as possible, thus removing the strangle hold the oil producing companies have.
You can hardly blame Opec for trying to get a decent price for a diminishing asset when they see European governments, led by the UK, taking advantage by levying tax of many times what they get for the product.
Chris Barlow-Smith, UK
It just makes me wonder what on earth does this country offer me, as a reason for staying, and not going elsewhere in the world, where the standard, and cost, of living is much, much better, and affordable. People should just vote with their feet and leave this over-priced and decaying country, that is in no way a Great Britain any longer.
The price of diesel is too cheap if people can afford to buy it. The exhaust emissions are vile and a major cause of asthma. Push the tax up and spend the money raised in research to develop cleaner fuels.
Well... what a stark contrast between the futile Dump the Pump and our Gaelic friends.
Is our nation now so emasculated that we just take government abuse day in, day out? Seems like it!!
Many people don't realise that they get double tax on fuel, VAT on the crude oil and then the horrendous tax burden on the everyday motorist. I live in a rural area and have no choice but to use my car so why should I subsidise the South East of England?
Although OPEC effectively control the crude price with production restrictions, the Government could simply reduce the tax to keep the price stable. This would barely reduce the overall tax take, and keep everybody largely happy.
Tony Blair won't take the sensible option, however, as he would prefer to profiteer on the back of the profiteering OPEC.
The blatant hypocrisy of successive British governments in claiming they are trying to be "Green" on transport by fleecing the motorist and not using the vast amounts of money this generates on transport issues was always going to blow up in their faces. The British public knows full well who is to blame - 70% duty by the Treasury. But unfortunately we, the public, are very docile and are basically too lazy to do anything except moan. Hats off to the French for trying to do something about it.
Petrol costs 44p a litre in Spain, the same costs 80p here in the UK. The difference is wholly attributable to TAX. The Government sets the level of tax. Therefore, the Government is to blame. Worst of all, unlike Spain we are being taxed on a resource that already belongs to the British people. To blame it on OPEC is an act of gross hypocrisy and exploitation. These countries deserve every penny they get for their oil. It is the livelihood of its people. It is shameful for a Labour government to want to lower the standard of living in Nigeria, Venezuela etc, to satisfy its convoluted policy of taxing us to the hilt.
Why aren't we joining in? I often think the French go over the top sometimes with their strikes, but surely we British do not get up and stand up enough? We pay even higher taxes not only for fuel but across the board. What's happened to this proud nation of fighters? I say let's all make a stand for lower fuel prices and give the French our whole-hearted support.
We, the public, are to blame. We continually accept higher prices on most products, from cars, electronics, mobile and telephone charges, CDs, videos, DVD, petrol - the list is endless.
Manufacturers and distributors are out to make a profit, not to provide a service. They cannot be blamed for charging more here if we are willing to pay for it. The cost of any product is always linked to how much people are willing to pay. If we are willing to pay more, they will charge more. It's as simple as that.
Who says rising fuel prices are a bad thing?
The experience so far shows that price is the only effective way
of bringing down fuel consumption and unless we succeed
in bringing fuel consumption down a long way we are
going to do irreparable damage to the planet.
Michael Cooper, England
Motorists are an easy target for the government, everybody has a car, it's a symbol of freedom, and the government just sees motorists as an easy source of income. They should lower the amount of TAX on fuel and prove that they do listen to what the people, they represent say, before the motorists in the UK get wise to the concessions our European counterparts are getting, and before we lose all the confidence we have in our own government, because I nearly have.
I am laughing from the sidelines at the whole situation as I only have a bicycle!
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