OPINION: Editorial - Environment is on a backburner

Mad Max films aside, it is hard to imagine a more powerful illustration of consumer dependency on oil and petrochemical producers than the rather surreal developments of the last few days. So it was only really a matter of time before the finger of blame was pointed at the oil barons behind their blockades.

Mad Max films aside, it is hard to imagine a more powerful illustration of consumer dependency on oil and petrochemical producers than the rather surreal developments of the last few days. So it was only really a matter of time before the finger of blame was pointed at the oil barons behind their blockades.

In the early days of the crisis at least, the fuel companies manage to be conspicuous in their absence from media reports - having all no doubt recognised they were in a no-win situation on the public relations front.

By breaking the blockades, they would be seen to be supporting the current pricing structure and the apparent persecution of the British motorist; but by openly lobbying the Government for a reduction in tax they would be seen to be undermining their own carefully crafted positioning on the environmental platform.

When the 'escalator' taxing system (which pushes duty up beyond general price rises) was first introduced in 1993, the concept was sold on the environmental ticket - a fact that has faded from recent memory, with media focus shifting to the reallocation of treasury gains to public services.

But you can bet your bottom dollar that if fuel companies attempted to put a stop on that escalator, that the unproved environmental benefits of the tax would soon spring to front of mind. In the circumstances sitting tight and keeping mum while the public forces a margin-raising tax cut certainly seems like a mighty attractive option.



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