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The BBC's Simon Montague
"With buses dwindling, people are switching to rail"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 13 September, 2000, 17:09 GMT 18:09 UK
Head to head on fuel: Environment vs consumer
HEAD TO HEAD
As the blockade of oil refineries remains nationwide, the debate on the cost of fuel also continues. Many consumers feel that the government is taxing fuel too heavily, but environmentalists see things differently.

Garry Russell, is campaign organiser for "Dump the Pump". The campaign has been running for several months and is encouraging drivers to boycott filling stations one day per week.

Roger Higman is with the environmental group Friends of the Earth. His organisation argues that high fuel prices encourage efficient use of a scarce resource.

Roger Higman, Friends of the Earth


Direct action protests against high fuel prices place a clear duty on the government to act.

Not to give in to the protestors, but to make the case for government policy. Prime Minister Tony Blair must make the case for fuel taxation.

We must burn less oil if we are to fight dangerous climate change. If we want to see fewer catastrophes in the world, then we must act now.

The UK Government wants to take a lead at the international climate summit in the Hague this November, hard to do that if you have meekly surrendered to petrol price protestors.

High fuel prices are also good for the economy, because they encourage efficient use of a scarce resource.

'Tory spending levels'

The government must ensure that petrol supplies get through to garages. Pressure is needed on oil companies. Illegal blockades of refineries must be cleared where necessary.

It needs to show that money from fuel duty is being spent on improving public transport, and facilities for people who cycle or walk.

This crisis might have been avoided if New Labour had not stuck to Tory spending levels for its first three years in government.

Chancellor Gordon Brown is sitting on 4 billion of unexpected tax revenue because of the recent rise in crude oil prices.

At least half of this money should be spent on bus and other transport services in rural areas.

'Extra tax'

Of course, some may be suffering because of fuel prices, and other economic circumstances. We would certainly like to see the government give more help to small and family farmers.

They are well placed to provide the sort of high quality real food which consumers want, to contribute to the local economy and protect the environment.

The government could also address some of the concerns of hauliers by joining the Eurovignette scheme, so that foreign lorries using our roads would pay extra tax.

Fuel shortages for a few days may even do some good, as drivers find out that walking, cycling or public transport are not so bad after all.

Fewer cars in our inner cities may mean less air pollution and fewer accidents.

Mr Blair needs to find the courage to explain the case for high fuel taxes. If they roll over to the protestors, the political price they pay in the long term could be very high indeed.


Garry Russell, Boycott the Pump


"Dump The Pump" started the campaign to reduce fuel taxation with its blanket boycott of all petrol stations starting in August. It has continued every Monday there after.

Since then, 3 million supporters of our campaign has been boycotting all BP petrol stations in order that we can place financial pressure onto a large oil giant.

This has resulted in a channel of communication opening up between BP and the chancellor's office.

We firmly support the actions of the haulage operators and farmers. The call for direct action has been bubbling over for some time and the truck drivers and farmers decided to force the issue, by not breaking the law, but by creating a presence outside every oil refinery and distribution centre around the UK.

'Crippling price'

As we all know it has resulted in most petrol stations running dry and the government being forced to firstly, recognise the fuel tax issue, something they seem to have hidden from so far, and then deciding to hold their ground.

So what is the point you may ask? Are we all wasting our time. The Dump The Pump campaign and the truck drivers and farmers think not.

We have over 90% of the motoring population of the UK behind us, petrol shortages cause disruption but the price we are all forced to buy fuel for is crippling us all.

We must now stay focused on the fuel tax issue, the government is hoping the oil companies will fill up it's petrol stations as quickly as possible and more importantly hope the media and public interest in high fuel prices goes away as quickly as possible.

'Devastating'

But it's gone too far, the government and Tony Blair are up against the wall over this issue. The people of the UK have had enough of "Rip Off Britain" and realise that in a democracy we can make a difference.

The next few months will see a multitude of protests, go-slows and the momentum of our Dump-The-Pump campaign increasing.

The outcome of the combined actions will be devastating for the government. Never have they been so unpopular, and never has this been so painfully obvious to them.

We feel so strongly that we will win, we can bring down the price of fuel, the effect of cheaper petrol will help everyone.


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13 Sep 00 | UK
Fuel crisis starts to bite
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