New poll shows public back current fuel tax if revenue

Last edited 5 October 2000 at 8:00am
5 October, 2000

A new opinion poll released at the Greenpeace Business Conference reveals that the public is willing to pay the current fuel tax so long as a proportion of it is guaranteed to be spent on the environment. A survey by NOP shows that 68% of respondents would be happier paying the current tax if some of it was spent on 'reducing investing in public transport and developing green fuels'. The same proportion said that they would prefer to pay the current fuel tax with a guaranteed 3 pence going to the environment rather than accept the 3 pence reduction in fuel duty offered by the Conservative Party.

The survey showed that when people are simply asked about the level of fuel tax, a majority (82%) still think that the current fuel duty is too high. The survey also reveals that the public does not believe high fuel prices discourage gas-guzzling behaviour despite academic research to the contrary. Only 39% of respondents believed cheaper fuel would lead to people driving more and only 37% believed it would encourage people to buy larger, less fuel efficient cars. However, when asked about the tax and the way revenues are spent, people are prepared to support the use of fuel duties to protect the environment.

Commenting on the survey, Stephen Tindale, Policy Director with Greenpeace in the UK, said: "These results support everything we have been saying about the fuel crisis. The public does not want a lower fuel tax because they don't care about the environment - quite the reverse. In fact people would be happy to pay the current fuel tax if they could be sure the money was being spent on public transport and alternative fuels. People simply don't believe that higher taxes curb fuel consumption and they don't believe that revenues from the tax are being spent on the environment. This survey sends a clear message to Government that they will only win public acceptance for the current fuel duty if they really do spend some of it on providing alternatives to oil." Greenpeace has also launched a call for the Government to establish a Green Fuel Fund from the revenues they receive from oil. One pence per litre of the fuel tax or a third of a penny on oil produced in UK waters would create a £00 million fund which would enable green electricity from wind, wave and solar power to become established industries in the UK and allow hydrogenand biofuels to become widely available as alternatives to oil for transport.

Notes for Editors:
1) Survey Results (NOP telephone survey conducted for Greenpeace between 29th September - 1st October of 991 adults aged 17+.

Do you yourself believe that at 57% the fuel tax is too high or do you think it is justified at this level?
Fuel tax too high 82%
The current level of fuel tax is justified 16%
Don't Know 3%

Do you agree that if fuel tax was lower, and as a result the price of fuel was reduced, people would drive more?
Agree 39%
Disagree 59%
Don't know 2%

Do you agree that if fuel tax was lower, and as a result the price of fuel was reduced, people would be more likely to buy larger, less fuel efficient cars?
Agree 37%
Disagree 59%
Don't know 4%

Some people have said that they would be happier paying the current rate of fuel tax if some of the money was spent on reducing pollution, for example by investing more in public transport and by developing green fuels. Do you agree or disagree with this view?
Agree, would be happier 68%
Disagree, makes no difference 28%
Don't know 3%

Some environment groups are proposing that a few pence of the fuel tax should be invested in public transport and in developing cleaner engines that don't need petrol or diesel but run on green fuel. Given the choice, which of the following two options would you choose?
A 3p per litre cut in fuel tax and no extra investment in protecting the environment 27%
No cut in fuel tax and the 3p being spent on protecting the environment 68%
Don't know 5%

2) New research published by Imperial College researchers on 29th September this year shows that increasing petrol prices reduces fuel consumption, but rising incomes and falls in other motoring costs are presently increasing the demand for petrol and the amount of traffic on UK roads.

The study, carried out by Professor Stephen Glaister and Dr Dan Graham of the department of civil and environmental engineering at Imperial, and published by the Automobile Association, reviews research on the response of motorists to fuel price changes.

The main findings of the report were:
The immediate effect of a 10 per cent increase in the price of fuel, holding everything else constant, will be a 2.5 per cent decline in consumption. As consumers have more time to adjust to price changes the impact of a 10% price change will be much larger - being associated with a decline in the consumption of fuel of 7 per cent, with all other effects held constant. This difference in response to price in the short and long run can be explained by the introduction of more fuel-efficient vehicles, changes in trips made, and greater use of other modes of transport. Increases in fuel price have been accompanied by reductions in other motoring costs, particularly car purchase. Relative to household income the cost of owning and operating a car is now 30 per cent lower than it was in the early 1960s.

Further information:
Greenpeace Press Office on 020 7865 8255

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