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When road tax, red diesel, organic food and bio-fuels meet, Part 2

an image of heavy traffic on a motorway in BritainWhat with the British government keen to introduce ‘pay as you drive’ scheme as a replacement to the current road taxation system, what pressures might this new scheme place on the motorist and what directions will they take? Any new laws concerning motorists are always guaranteed to generate some heavy political traffic. So what do people like me do to navigate their way through? What are our options?

In the first installment, I looked at the proposed ‘pay as you drive’ scheme and what such a scheme means to the average motorist.

In this installment, I’ll be looking at what forces might shape a different route going forward, but still manage to please both the government and the consumer alike.

Strangely Underhanded Victory for the SUV-driving motorist?

While the British government have their eyes pointing in the right direction, I don’t think the outcome they have in mind is going to be arrived at quite the way that they would have intended.

Governments being what they are, I’ve no doubt they’ll put some spin on the whole thing and claim some kind of victory.

However, my feeling is that the consumer will be in the driving seat while government will be no more than a back seat driver.

Some time in the not-so-distant future, the British government will introduce a new ‘pay as you drive’ scheme as a replacement to the current road taxation system.

A small percentage of the population will look to alternate means of transport, such as park & ride and car sharing schemes, buses, trains, trams or even cycling.

But the vast majority won’t and more to the point, they never, ever will. But the question is, why?

Because we, the British people are so inured to the various vainglorious attempts by the government to affect social change that we resist.

Plus, a car is a personal thing. It’s your personal space. You can sing, smoke, fart, pick your nose .. do whatever the hell you like and be safe in the knowledge that whatever you do is done in your space, safely and securely.

And then there’s public transportation.

I thought I’d leave that last line as it is, because let’s face it, that’s all that needs to be said. We all know what public transportation involves and how bad it is in certain parts of Britain.

So assuming the government follow my thinking from the previous article as a means of tracking the fuel consumption of all vehicles on the road and charge accordingly, will that suddenly for an entire section of the British population to sell their SUVs to save money? Or to aspire to the greater, nobler cause of saving the environment? Hmm.

Some time on Friday, the gas fitter came around to check our gas fire. In the course of the conversation, the gas fitter told my dad about how his own 4×4 was costing him too much to tax ad fuel and how he planned on selling it.

My dad simply replied by saying: “Who to?” And then went on to explain how few people are going to want to buy such things given the level of taxation levied on them.

Fast forward back to the future and the situation might be considerably different. The not-so-humble SUV might just be given a new lease of life! “How?” I hear you cry, well it’s pretty simple, really.

The demand for SUVs won’t suddenly vanish because their shitty mileage makes them a target for extra taxation, and I’m damn confident on this issue. And here’s one really good reason why. Here in Britain, a huge lump of tax is dropped on the sale of cigarettes, cigars and alcohol.

The government keep heaping more and more money on these things and they know that while ever people are daft enough to inhale and imbibe these products, the tax money will keep flowing into the governments coffers.

So if people are quite willing to pay over the odds for something that is seriously detrimental to their health, I can’t see any of these people batting an eyelid to driving around in something detrimental to the environment, can you?

So while ever there’s a demand for the SUV, there’s a market to sell them into. But a market isn’t sustainable unless there’s growth, and producing SUVs with hugely inefficient engines is not the way forward.

My money is on someone like Honda coming along with some massive lump of an engine that runs on chip fat, produces fewer emissions than a fart from your average feline and will happily romp around hill & dale doing 60 mpg.

If you look to the class photograph for the government in charge for that year, you won’t see many smiles on the faces of chancellors department, that’s for sure.

However, looking at the bigger picture, you’ll notice smiles elsewhere on the face of the environment minister, but maybe only a thin-lipped smirk of sorts on the face of the transport minister, given that road usage hasn’t really gone down the way he / she might have liked.

But amidst all of this, the government will have many of the ingredients necessary to see some good in the shape of things to come. Better, more fuel-efficient engines means lower carbon emissions, more targets met and a maybe a good reason to heap more on the fuel tax into the bargain.

And therein lies the catalyst for change, and if my predictions are to come true, the means and the motivation for a decentralization of services the likes of I will live to enjoy for many years to come…

By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

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