Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Fuel Tax ...

The EU 'Parliament' is debating imposing an EU wide tax on diesel fuel at present. The argument in favour of it is, as usual, 'green' and runs along the usual lines of reducing 'carbon' in the atmosphere. All the usual arguments are being aired about its being a 'good' tax, which will reduce the use of a 'dirty' fuel and 'save the planet' by 'preventing climate change.' What is NOT being said, is the impact this tax will have on the cost of everything from food to housing.

The cost of fuel is, at present high. This means that heating, electricity, transport and everything associated with the use of any fuel is also being forced upwards. In tax terms, since tax is always a percentage of the value of any given commodity, it means that every government is benefitting by having an increased revenue, while every user is losing, by paying a higher price plus a higher tax on whatever they use. Don't expect any politician or advocate from the 'tax them off the roads' lobby to acknowledge this. The politicians won't acknowledge it because they are net beneficiaries of the increased income. The anti-personal transport lobby won't acknowledge it because their ideology dictates that it is necessary to reduce your wealth in order to 'redistribute' it. What no one seems to acknowledge is that increasing the price of the fuel used in trains, buses, trucks and shipping has a huge impact on that most basic commodity all of us use. 

Yes, food prices always increase when the cost of transporting and producing it goes up. Producing it? Yes, that as well, the farmer uses large amounts of diesel fuel in his tractor, in his harvesting machines and in getting the produce off the land and to the outlet.

It always annoys me to hear reporters stop a 'man in the street' and bounce him (or her in the case of a lady) with the question as to whether they are prepared to pay more to use their car in order to reduce 'carbon' emissions or some other 'green' ideal. The vast majority are caught off guard and you can see the 'Oh God, I better be careful what I say, this could be awkward' shutters go up. Then they trot out some inane platitude about 'I suppose if it helps save the planet,' and duck away as fast as they can. Very few will actually give the straight and honest answer. "No. I'm not prepared to pay more, because it will mean increases in the price of food ..." To be honest, I don't think many have even thought that far!

I don't think the overpaid occupants of Westminster, Strasbourg, Berlin, Paris or any other Parliament have either. If they had, I suspect they might have more caution in adopting these ideas. That said, the majority of politicians I've met probably would do it anyway. Most of them operate on the principle of 'Don't confuse me with facts, my mind is made up' or the better one of 'I know all the answers, the questions are irrelevant.' The very few who don't generally either quickly convert to one or the other - or don't survive in politics.

Here in Germany it does seem that more and more people are waking up to the cost of all these 'green' taxes and policies. Sadly though, I suspect it will take years to get a change in the thinking of those occupying the gilded halls of power - and by then it will be too late to save our economies. In the meantime, expect to see your food bills rise exponentially, your wages stagnate and the cost of staying warm ... 

Well, our forebears managed without heating their homes, we may just have to get used to it again.

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