Talis Kimberley-Fairbourn – The Cost of Cheap Fuel…


Petrol’s down. You can fill your tank – if you drive and have a car – for considerably less than it took a year ago. Anyone would be pleased, right? Of course, where prices are passed down to the customer, anyone would be pleased. What have the Green Party to say about this, though?

We’re not the Puritans, you know – we don’t, in fact, want to take everyone’s car away. What we do want is for everyone to have a full set of choices about how they travel; the Green Party’s policy website details a hierarchy of modes of transport, prioritising those that are least polluting and most efficient. We all know that the fossil fuels that move so many of our vehicles are finite resources. Isn’t it time we started admitting that? Prices are low now, but they won’t stay low forever, and while we remain dependant on petrol and its derivatives, we’ll remain dependant on the volatile global market. Petrol supply is right out of our hands. What can we do, then?

It’s lazy governance to try to change peoples’ behaviour simply by making one option more expensive, but without offering a better alternative. This week the Greens’ Leader, Natalie Bennett, announced that the Green Party propose to reduce bus and rail fares by an average of 10% per year. We need to give everyone affordable and practical public transport, that takes them where they need and want to go in a timely and safe way.

We also know that we can’t go on building roads to meet expected demand. At some point – and arguably we passed it some time ago – demand for transport has to be managed rather than simply accepted. That’s why we also want to keep and improve on local facilities and amenities, relocalising communities, and encouraging tele-working. Of all the journeys we make, many are trips we wouldn’t choose if we had the option, and others might be made by other means – again, if the option were there, safe, affordable and practical.

What won’t appear on any balance sheet on transport is that when people walk and cycle more, they are investing in their health, which saves costs there as well as improving their quality of life; when there is less motorised traffic on the roads, there is less wear and tear on the roads (saving maintenance money), less pollution (we all deserve clean air, and again, this impacts on our health) and less congestion.

I was on local radio this morning1 talking about some of these things. I’d arrived early so as to take advantage of a lift – which was as well, really, because another guest was held up. In traffic.

I did catch the bus home, though.

Talis Kimberley-Fairbourn
(8th Jan 2014)

1Simeon Courtie on BBC Wiltshire, 8th January 2014

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