Page last updated at 00:38 GMT, Monday, 28 July 2008 01:38 UK

Government blamed over fuel costs

Graph for Panorama poll

More than a third of people in the UK think the government is most to blame for high fuel prices, a poll for the BBC's Panorama programme suggests.

Some 38% said the government was primarily responsible, while 22% mostly blamed oil producing countries, and 20% pointed the finger at oil companies.

And 35% of those questioned said they were more likely to vote for a party offering to lower car and fuel taxes.

Just over 1,000 people were questioned for Panorama: Can We Afford to Fill Up?

The 1,021 people were selected at random and included 64% who described themselves as frequent drivers.

Hitting the pavement

The poll suggests that the current high prices of petrol and diesel are having a significant effect on how much driving people are doing - with 32% of those questioned saying they are driving less than they were three months ago.

There is no doubt that some people are being priced off the road
Edmund King, AA president

And, according to the poll results, people are turning to other modes of transport, with 60% saying they were walking more, 34% saying they were using public transport more, 21% saying they were car sharing more frequently and 20% saying they were cycling more.

Oil prices hit record levels above $147 a barrel in early July, and though they recently dropped to about $132 a barrel, many motorists are still feeling the pinch.

Edmund King, president of the AA, told Panorama that "there is no doubt that some people are being priced off the road".

Graph for Panorama poll

"They cannot afford it out of the disposable income that they've got because their costs have gone up by 30 odd per cent."

Mr King told Panorama he believes high fuel prices could be a vote loser for the government.

"Normally in politics when it comes to elections, health and education are right up there, rightly so, but you don't hear much about transport. But now motoring is becoming much more of an issue," Mr King said.

In the poll, 60% answered "No" when asked whether they would be more likely to vote for a political party that promised to lower car and fuel taxes, but 35% said they were more likely to do so.

Treasury minister Angela Eagle said the government had to get the balance right.

"If there's a sudden price spike in oil that is causing real hardship to businesses, families and individuals in the country, then we have a duty as a government to make sure that we can do something about that in the short-term.

"But we don't lose sight of our medium to long-term goals, which are to re-engineer the way our economy works in order to reduce our carbon footprint, and that is what we are doing."

Fuel taxes

Even though a number of UK supermarkets cut their prices last week, Britain's fuel prices are still among the highest in Europe.

G-Wiz driver Ray Morrison
More people said that they would consider cars like the electric G-Wiz

About 50p of the price of a litre of petrol goes to the Treasury as fuel duty - before VAT is taken on top.

Though oil prices have risen the government says it has not been making any more revenue on the actual fuel, as this is capped.

They have been taking extra VAT, but the government insists this is cancelled out as motorists are spending less in other areas.

Green incentives

The government has pledged to reduce the UK's carbon emissions by 26% over the next 12 years.

From next April road tax prices will be based on a car's fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions.

Graph for Panorama poll

The Panorama poll suggests that when choosing a car, vehicle tax and fuel efficiency are now much higher priorities.

Eighty per cent of those polled said that if they were changing their car, vehicle tax cost would be an important factor in their choice - versus 18% who said it was not important to them.

Eighty-nine per cent said that fuel efficiency was important, while only 11% said it was not.

And in a sign that green initiatives and incentives might be starting to take hold, 50% of those polled said they were likely to consider buying a car that used alternative fuels, such as electricity, hydrogen and bio ethanol.

For the full poll results and to see more about how fuel prices are affecting people watch Panorama: Can We Afford to Fill Up? on BBC One at 8.30pm on Monday 28 July 2008.


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