As fuel duty cut is wiped out, calls grow to wean nation off oil

George Osborne's much heralded penny cut in fuel has already been wiped out by rising oil prices - less than two weeks on from the announcement, reports Shamik Das.

George Osborne’s much heralded penny cut in fuel duty has already been wiped out by rising oil prices – less than two weeks on from the announcement. According to figures from the RAC, the average price of a litre is now 133.55p, 0.02p higher than the average price on budget day. Environmental campaigners responded to the news with a call for “real alternatives” and for the economy to be weaned off its addiction to oil.

Friends of the Earth’s senior climate campaigner Tony Bosworth said:

“Soaring fuel prices and rising carbon emissions show how urgently we need to wean the UK economy off its oil addiction. For too long, successive governments have been treating the symptoms and not the cause – and now we’re all paying a hefty price.

“We need rapid action to develop clean energy and greener cars – and real alternatives to driving such as better public transport and more walking and cycling.”

The short-sightedness of Mr Osborne’s failure to improve public transport and wean the nation off oil has been widely criticised, the problems it would result in widely foreseen.

As Eleanor Besley wrote on Left Foot Forward last month:

“Pre-budget there had been a split in opinion among green groups; I say split – in reality it was about two different approaches: on the one hand, recognising the necessity of the car for so many of the British public and instead of focusing on fuel duty, emphasising improved public transport; and on the other hand, insisting that steps be taken towards getting the UK off the oil hook by maintaining planned fuel duty increases and ring-fencing them for investment in sustainable alternatives to car transport.

“Ultimately, the budget failed to impress either camp and has if nothing else brought them back together. Having more or less confirmed before the budget that he was unlikely to go ahead with planned fuel duty increases, Mr Osborne pulled an absolute corker out of the bag by going one step forward – or rather ten steps backwards.

“Not only did he scrap the increase, he also declared a 1p cut in fuel duty which had not been included in the pre-briefing, rebuffing recent warnings from energy secretary Chris Huhne about the risk of a 1970s oil shock and ignoring the real crises of peak oil and climate change which will, without a doubt, continue to push up the price of oil…”

• See also: “The transport secretary’s oil addiction”, March 8th 2011.

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