back to article The 'green' car tax grabs that don't add up

Alistair Darling has missed his big chance to show that he's both serious about climate change and that he understands the arguments. He's delayed the previously announced 2p per litre rise in fuel duty and then added that it will rise 0.5 p per litre each year thereafter. This simply isn't acceptable, it's putting us all at …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters


    but he was always going to hike up taxes on popular things, because of the shortfall that Brown produced over the last few years.. Cutting it back will just great a massive shortfall.

    personally, I think the budget has become a "fudge-it". This wasn't really a good budget, more of a very weak one.

  2. Mark
    Thumb Down

    Flawed analysis

    Tim - your analysis is completely flawed. You make the assumption that the only reason to have fuel tax is to try to prevent climate change. Its not - there was already fuel tax before anyone had ever heard of climate change for issues to do with attempting to ration road use to prevent detrimaental effects on the real environment due to car use - i.e. making car drivers pay something towards the real time external costs of car use.

    In order to calculate the correct level of taxation under your analysis you would need to add the further taxation needed to pay for climate change objectives to the existing taxation.

    Now stop posting complete garbage.

  3. Simon
    Paris Hilton

    Get a motorbike

    I travel a stretch of the M6 ever day to work and back and usually 10 miles plus is queuing car traffic with bored car drivers sitting inside them. I glide down the middle of the queues.

    Forget the "Green message" people are happy to sit in the traffic every day and no shouting about the environment is going to change peoples habits (Yes im sure someone will tell me there is no alternative, really? I found one).

    My bike is cheaper to run than any "Green" car and all my parking is free, tax is low, plus my ride to work everday is an adventure, its damn good fun!

    Paris? You know what i'm talking about with your filthy minds...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In a perfect world perhaps, but...

    This is only valid if the CO2 pricing is applied to all CO2. Since it isn't and the budget didn't change that the current shortage has to be made up somewhere - and with a ready infrastructure available for collecting it cars are as good a place to start as anywhere.

  5. Mike Crawshaw
    Black Helicopters


    Really? Tax should be lower on fuel to offset the environmental impact?


    Next we'll find out that the tax increases on tobacco and alcohol every year don't actually do much about reducing consumption, and are more about raising easy cash to cover expense accounts and white elephant pet projects like ID Cards and ill-thought-out and unnecessary computer systems...

    <-black helicopters emit no emissions, that's why the government uses them to crack down on dissenters.

  6. Peter W

    minor point

    or perhaps not...anyway, have you included the extraction/refining/distribution carbon costs of getting the petrol from the ground to your car? Also, the carbon cost of actually making the car in the first place?

    I suspect the number looks slightly different if you do the full sums and not just a part of them. Having said which, since the funds aren't ringfenced to actually do something about climate change they are just an excuse for the governemnt to raise extra taxes anyway.

  7. Steve

    False assumption

    This whole thing rests upon the idea that the government are using tax increases to achieve their environmental goals. They're not.

    They're using their environmental goals to achieve tax increases.

  8. Robert McGregor
    Paris Hilton


    ... don't we also have to consider that if taxation were an effective tool, it would also mean that people would stop a particular action altogether, thus reducing the amount of tax collected, thus making that tax pretty pointless and showing it for what it really is... another lie.

    It is currently not a morally unacceptable thing to emit large quantities of CO2 in excess of that amount that the surrounding natural and man-made mechanisms can soak it up and deal safely with it keeping all things in balance.

    If the government were truly against high CO2 emissions then they would be moving us to being morally against them.

    Of course where money is concerned, morals do not follow, so big business will always ignore these tax hikes and either pay them or find a way round them while keeping on the high emissions.

    The result being that the little guys end up paying over the odds and seeing no benefit. Darling could have added £1 a litre to fuel and it would not have amde a jot of difference to the amount of CO2 in broad terms. But the average Joe would no longer be able to get to work etc...

    It is a real shame that we have such a weak governament in the UK. They could do so much yet really are just a wolf in sheep's clothing and will always seek to raise taxes to control the little guy.

    Next chance you get, vote anyone but Labour, Tory or Lib Dem. They are just looking after each other and until we get real change that brings people into power with the foresight to make beneficial change then we are nowhere near solving the problem.

    Paris Hilton, cause i'm sure she'd like erm... like wanna see all the erm... dolphins live in like harmony with all the like erm chickens...

  9. Anonymous Coward

    I agree

    think you got the 'fruticake' description right first time.

    If that had more references to kool aid, Apple bashing and random capitalisations, I'd think Webster himself had written it.

    I think I'll go and lie down for a while now.

  10. Gordon Pryra

    The author misunderstands the entire point in a “green tax”

    The whole point of taxing non-green emissions is NOT just to cover the costs, but to REDUCE those emissions

    What the author advocates is juut a way of allowing someone with cash, the ability to be as greedy as they like.

    Are you telling me that just because someone can afford the "fiscal value" of their Co2 emissions that they should be allowed to "use up their quota"

    You talk about the future with a waterlogged Weymouth, I would LOVE to hear the people of that furtures views on the author of this rubbish, and of our warped values in general.

    The views in this article show very clearly how humantiy have come to be in the situation they are now, rather than take responsiblity for our actions, we live in a childish, blinkered world of "more now, me, me, me, pay later"

  11. Anonymous Coward


    Quite agree. The money has to come from somewhere to pay for the dubious war effort so one way or another someone will have to pay. So it might as well come from fuel duty.

  12. J Welek

    Bang on...

    @Steve: You beat me to it by 6 minutes! :)

    Totally agreed.

  13. Neil Hoskins


    The main problem with cars isn't the people they kill in Bangladesh and the polar bears: it's the people they kill and maim here and now (equivalent to one 9/11 every year in the UK, or seven jumbojet crashes). It's a ridiculous method of transport in its present form and if it were being designed from scratch would never get past the first design review.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    a refreshing look at this whole climate change thingy

    Great article. You just gotta love economists ability to put a price on everything.

  15. Jamie

    Raising Fuel Duty affects everyone.

    It does not matter if you are a car nut with 10 parked in the drive or a tree hugging enviro-nut who bicycles everywhere. The rise in fuel duty will affect everyone.

    You do not get groceries by having everything grown next door. The stores have to have it all delivered and if the price of fuel increases then so will the transport cost which will be passed on to the consumer in higher grocery bills.

    Go to high street to buy new clothes and you will have to pay more there as well as they have higher transport costs.

    Public transportation will also have to go up to help hedge the rising cost of fuel.

    Utilities will go up as the companies will have higher prices for the fleets of company cars and vans which mean higher bills each month.

    Raising fuel duty will not slow down or stop environmental damage. That is a mute excuse used by uneducated people.

    First thing to do is to get the illegal vehicles off the road.

    Then start actually doing something to help bring out fuel effecient cars, and alternative fuel cars.

    Raising these taxes is just another way for the pigs on Capital Hill, Washington DC, or Westminster to get richer by ripping off the public.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Flawed analysis

    Have you heard of Road Tax?

    I'm not entirely sure what "real time external costs of car use" means, but we're either talking about the environment in which case there's fuel tax, or the road infrastructure in which case there's road tax.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's never as simple as the free market ideal...

    Hmm, so it doesn't matter what the taxes are spent on, only that the polluter has paid someone? So the chelsea tractor pays for us to build new schools and hospitals, and that makes it alright that Bangladesh slips underwater?

    This is the fundamental mistake that so many laissez-faire zealots make after reading the Ladybird edition of The Wealth of Nations, the assumption that increasing global GDP is an absolute equivalent for increasing the sum of human happiness and welfare, rather than just a strong contributory factor, one that must be tempered with considerations of distribution of wealth and the utility of money to produce a fair, humane global economic system. Free market fundamentalism is every bit as dangerous as totalitarian socialism.

    And from a purely economic perspective, high fuel taxes play an interesting role in reducing our national exposure to volatility in global oil prices, and providing a path away from the implications of peak oil that the market may well not be adequately pricing into the forecasts that drive their strategy...

  18. Tim Worstal

    True, But

    "Its not - there was already fuel tax before anyone had ever heard of climate change for issues to do with attempting to ration road use to prevent detrimaental effects on the real environment due to car use"

    True, but, the other costs, road building, noise, particularates, congestion, are more than adequately covered in the other 30-35 p a litre that is paid in fuel duty.

    I'm talking solely about the marginal taxation imposed, so we are told, to cover CO2-e emissions.

    "They're using their environmental goals to achieve tax increases."

    Well, yes, but then everyone who reads this site is intelligent enough to make that connection without my needing to state it explicitly.

  19. Simon Ball


    "In order to calculate the correct level of taxation under your analysis you would need to add the further taxation needed to pay for climate change objectives to the existing taxation."

    Read the article properly before you post. The point he is making is that the level of taxation necessary to pay for climate change has ALREADY been added to the existing taxation, in the form of the fuel duty escalator, which has raised fuel prices by double the 11p required.

    Now, I don't agree with that entirely - as I recall, the fuel duty escalator was introduced as much to deal with the costs of congestion and non-CO2 pollution as climate change. Consequently, you'd have to try and work out how much of that tax rise was ostensibly imposed to address climate change and how much was imposed to address congestion. (Although from the point of view of reducing the demand for fuel, it doesn't really matter why the tax was imposed). But his essential point is still valid. The Stern Report doesn't support the government's assertion that major increases in fuel duty may be needed to fight climate change, and the people of this county need to be aware of that.

  20. GettinSadda

    @Steve and Mark

    I think you missed the point of this article.

    The chancellor claims that his fuel tax rises are to offset the emissions caused by using that fuel. This article shows that he is either wrong with his figures, confused, or (shock horror) lying. I vote for "all of the above".

    There may be many good reasons to hike the fuel duty - it's just that the reason being quoted is false.

    Oh, and for those of you saying that every other source of pollution needs to be added to this duty - you need to understand the whole "polluter pays" idea is that each person or organisation that emits CO2 (or equivalent) pays for exactly what they have emitted. The pollution caused by refining fuel needs to be paid by the refineries (who can then pass it on down the line). The pollution caused by making a car needs to be paid by the manufacturers (or worst case the importers if the car is made in a country that does not use "polluter pays").

    I'm not saying that I approve of these ideas, just that when a chancellor claims to be using them to calculate tax rates they better add up correctly, otherwise I will think he is lying.

  21. Rob Aley
    Paris Hilton

    Its not economics

    The problem with your argument is that it is based on economics, i.e. that the tax should pay for the damage done and so everything balances.

    However, (in my opinion at least), balance isn't necessary. The purpose of the tax is to deter use and prevent the damage in the first place, and it doesn't matter if it costs more to do so than the costs of the damage that would occur. Because even though the economists (and you) may think you can put a price on a life, you can't. And global warming will cost lives.

    If you think you can put a price on a life, tell me how much. I will give you the money and then kill you.

    Paris, because even she has more of a clue than you.

  22. Human

    They need this money...

    I agree with the writer that they are charging us more already. But they need this money for wars. War is an expensive business and we all have to pay. Otherwise Blair and Bush will not be able to test new technologies in Iraq and Afghanistan. And if they manage to win these countries then we will be ok for oil from Iraq and Gas from ex russian states through Afghanistan.

  23. Chris Collins

    Steve's right

    Labour tax things that they know you can't (and perhaps shouldn't) do without. I look forward to their new taxes on "unhealthy" foods. They carre not one jot about the green things, apart from spinning it so they get re-elected by nicking socialists from the Green party. The margins on elections are so tight you need to appeal to the borderline fruitcakes. If they said that they'd recoup the money through getting rid of bloat and their stupid credits and things that cost more to administer than they save maybe they'd be more credible. If they cared about the environment there'd be fast, efficient public transport. They've had ten years and they've done fuck all about that.

  24. Andy Taylor

    How to lie with Statistics?

    This article makes no sense as taxation is not just about the environment.

    Most people refer to Vehicle Excise Duty as "Road Tax" in the mistaken assumption that the money paid is then spent on the road system (it's not).

    The trouble with fuel pricing is that increases adversely affect* inflation, so delaying the duty increase probably has more to do with making the inflation figures look better than anything environmental.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Folks - it's there in the byline

    ' He is a Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute.'

    Maybe not a name familiar to our younger readers, but these are the fine folks who brought us the poll tax, the internal market in the NHS and - you're going to love this - rail privatisation. Not content with those great ideas, ASI have also proposed privatising Royal Mail, ending free libraries and scrapping arts subsidies. Generally if something is a basic bedrock of decent society, Adam Smith is in favour of either eliminating it as a sign of socialism or flogging it off at a discount to the highest (Conservative voting) bidder.

    So an article from Adam Smith proposing a tax cut for the richer part of society - how very unusual.

    One question, why is El Reg suddenly posting so many - shall we be kind? - counter-arguments - against anthropogenic global warming? It'd help if any of them were posted by (oooh let's be radical) meteorologists, climatologists or geologists, but instead we get dreadful pieces authored by ex-Navy divers and people who think they know about the price of gold.

    If this is now editorial policy for the Reg, may I, as a geologist, offer to op-ed a compulsive article about the next Milan fashion show?

  26. FlatSpot


    haha yeah motorbikes are green??? What is the mpg on a motorbike.. about the same as a small car, so hardly green, add that to the inability to keep to the speed limit, the level of noise and the aimless riding around every weekend, I would prefer every motorbike was in the crusher!

    My obvious bias is because I've lived in Hampshire and Surrey and every weekend you get dozens of loosers just driving around for no reason, when they should be at home working on their relationship with their wife and kids!

    One can only hope the lobby groups in europe, bank rolled by the US, will one day be kicked into touch! Yeah we really need Harley Ds in this crowded country.. selfish knob jockeys

  27. Anonymous Coward

    Hardy ha ha.

    An excellent article, and how typical to see the usual El Reg enviro rent-a-quote gobs lining up to have a pop.

    If the cost of the damage done by CO2 ammounts to $85 per tonne emitted then paying any more than that is simply unfair.

    And as Tim says - the government's own guy said that, not Tim himself.

    Congrats again Tim!

  28. Steven Jones

    What about all the other power...

    OK - let's take on the principle that we should have usage-negative taxing on CO2 emissions (this is we tax all CO2 emission on the same basis whether it's used for heating, airline travel, industrial production etc.) then you'd have to deal with the increased pricing in those areas. Assuming that $85 per tonne is the "right" number (and I doubt that there's) a simple calculation, then for the average UK household you would see something liek the following :-

    Approximately £90 per year extra on electricity bills

    Approximately £180 per year on gas bills

    Expect that airline trip to cost a more - it would add about £100 to a return flight to New York from the UK.

    It doesn't stop there - much more energy gets used outside the home (industry, offices, farms, fertiliser etc.) and these would act as input costs into things that are bought.

    Certainly it makes sense to me to adopt a usage-independent based pricing scheme if the aim is to drive the most cost-effective behaviour, but bear in mind that such an approach will have some huge social consequences. It will bear particularly hard on those who are not currently carrying their share of the CO2 burden (as they are "subsidised" in part by road users).

    That's not to say I don't think it is a good idea. It would be much more rational and presumably the social issues could be dealt with. However, some people will lose out and people shouldn't expect such a change will necessarily mean that they will be better off, just because of a reduction in road fuel costs - it could be very easily outweighed by increases in other area.

  29. Geoff Webber

    Weymouth - Flooding in a couple of centuries.

    Hmm Interesting, wonder why the author chose Weymouth as his example.

    If he is talking about the one in Dorset, where I live, then his timing is way out.

    Some years ago the Council raised the harbour walls by 2 -3 feet to prevent flooding in the streets around the harbourside.

    On Monday (the day of the gale) the water came within a gnats knacker of overtopping the new walls. The gales coincided with a spring tide.

    There was some flooding, due to seawater percolating up through the drains, and some roads were unpassable.

    I would suggest that it is not going to be centuries before Weymouth is under water more like decades...!

    All hands to the pumps icon as thats what we'll need to do.

    PS I live up a hill and will have an exclusive island to look down on the poorer mortals swimming for their lives.

    Problem is all the shops and utilities are at the bottom of the hill...... :-(

  30. Thandar

    What's the logic behind the Stearn Report?

    I could understand it if the government was going to give Bangladesh the cash for flood defences or Polar Bear breeding programs, but it's not.

    The money just goes into the general pot for building more coal powerstations, ect

    As far as I can see it's a tax on being bad, like Alcohol and Tobacco, no different.Otherwise the tax would have to apply to power generators and Farmers and anybody else that produces greenhouse gasses.

  31. Geoff Mackenzie

    Re: motorbikes (@FlatSpot)

    My bike gets 100-120mpg and is reasonably quiet (a Honda CD250U). I keep to the speed limit and I use it primarily to commute. During my journey on my two-seat 200kg vehicle I see hundreds upon hundreds of selfish knob jockeys like yourself, one to a car, turning the roads into car parks and averaging 10mph (and probably 20mpg. max), 5 metres at a time. On average two to three times a week one of these blundering idiots, usually mid phone call, tries to kill me by looking the wrong way while heaving his lurching land zeppelin around with all the ease and grace of an elephant on LSD.

    So up yours. If I go out for a weekend burn what's it to you? I still use far less fuel than you and am many times less likely to kill a fellow road user or pedestrian.

  32. Peter

    Mike's Right!

    The Adam Smith Institute and its luminaries make the stereotypical 'swivel-eyed' loonies look positively benign. Only the most ridiculously ignorant and stupid politicians have implemented their crackpot schemes: Mike points some of these out.

    Wheras 'Economics' aspire to being 'scientific', the ASI and its fellow travellers have a religious fervour akin to the Taliban, or possibly Scientolgists when it comes to promolgating their free market views. In their own comfy virtual reality the 'market' is both all powerful and all wise: everything is simple and straightforward. I make or grow something, you want to buy it, the price is determined solely by supply and demand. If the price is too low, I stop making widgets or growing corn and move into doofers or growing hash....

    OOOps but ther's the rub. I'm not "allowed" to grow hash, because it isn't just the 'market' operating here. And of course calculating some arbitary number that represents the 'ideal' in terms of CO2 costs ignores all the contextual factors surrounding that issue too. In the 'real world' (their favourite phrase when slagging socialist etc. as I recall) markets are always constrained by other factors, and never, ever, free. Like most right-wing 'philosophising' the ASI's pitch is just too simplistic; it has an appeal that convinces superficially until one considers how it might work in practice.

  33. Iain


    On my part this is somewhat hypocritical because I do drive, but the idea that you can 'pay' for the damage you do to the environment is ridiculous. It's like saying it's ok to burn down someone's house so long as you can pay for it afterwards. Fine for an economist, but nonsense in real terms. Sod the actual maths; both the government and the article writer have got it wrong.

    The government is wrong because whilst it is appropriate to disincentivise (sp?) people from using fossil fuels and damaging the environment, but ALTERNATIVES MUST BE PROVIDED.

    The article writer is wrong because if the government is trying to do what it states, ie: reduce the effect and progression of man-made climate change then working out what should be paid in relation to the value of what is physically lost is crazy talk.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    How much Co2-e

    tonnage would we save per year if we just shot all the polititians?

  35. Mike

    Re: motorbikes

    Its not just motorcyclists that drive around for recreation... even car drivers do it...

    Difference is that a motorbike can beat congestion most of the time, a car can't it just get stuck in it.

  36. Rob Aley

    "Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute"

    I missed that byline initially, but now the article makes sense!

    The Adam Smith Institute recently published a report saying Fairtrade is wrong, and leaving coffee growers and the like to the free market is the best thing for them, failing to note that its the free market that caused the social and economic deprevation in the producing communitites in the first place.

    For an example closer to home, the current state of the railways is due to the Adam Smith Institutes recommendations on how to privatise it.

    And they want to ban free libraries. Lock up that knowledge, and we won't learn that money isn't everything...

  37. Ishkandar

    Rare metals expert ???

    How can Tim Worstall possibly know all that much about rare metals when he cannot even see that the Chancellor is transmuting CO2 to gold simple by using taxes ??

    Old-time alchemists, eat your hearts out !!

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Been recently dumped by a biker have you?

    My 600 Bandit, whilst not the most stupidest of speed machines, is plenty fast enough to make driving even the GF's sports car a rather bland affair, however 120 [motorway] miles costs me in the region of £9 in petrol, which I reckon is about 60ish mpg.

    And as we all know that car drivers are so careful about sticking to speed limits and never have their relationships break down or anything.

    So come clean, was you dumped by a biker with a Harley, dumped for a biker with a Harley or dumped by a biker with a Harley for a biker with a Harley?

  39. Anonymous Coward


    As my solution to climate change I suggest CCC or Cow Carbon Capture.

    This is a simple device the cow wears that stores the methane the cow produces.

    This can then be used to fuel cars, converting it to CO2, which is 21 times more environmentally friendly, and should be taxed at $85 per tonne.

  40. Chris Miller

    Ha ha

    I wondered how long it would take the enviro-conspiracy-mentalists to come out with the "I can't break your argument ,therefore I will proclaim you must be in the pay of big oil" line - yes, I'm looking at you Mr Richards. For my part, I'd rather live in a free country run by the ASI, than an enviro-fascist state of do-gooders telling us all what's best for us, but maybe that's just me.

    "There are four ways in which you can spend money. You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money. Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I’m not so careful about the present, but I’m very careful about the cost. Then, I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m sure going to have a good lunch! Finally, I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get. And that’s government. And that’s close to 40% of our national income."

    Milton Friedman (1912-2006)

  41. Anonymous Coward

    Just plain wrong

    The author appears to be making some assumption that all this green tax will either:

    1. get put into some little savings account to cover the cost of environmental disasters at some point in the future at which point the government will kindly hand it over to Bangladesh and/or Weymouth.

    2. Spent on whatever now, and people will sort of keep track of this and pay in benefit to future generations when the world floods, cos we're really nice people.

    IMO, so called green taxes should be used in to reduce demand for carbon producing activities to 'prevent' future damage and stabilise the environment before it gets beyond the tipping point. Wow, prevention....hadn't thought of that....

    BTW, I happen to agree with the previous post regarding the government using its green initiative to increase tax.

    Either way, it's game over and I'm heading for the hills - with luck in a few centuries my hillside spot will become an exclusive island with private beach......

  42. Edward Barrow

    Only if there were road pricing AS WELL

    Stern's carbon tax pays for the environmental costs of the CO2 emission, and should apply to all fossil fuel including home heating fuel and fuel for the railways.

    And cars including electric cars should pay for the costs of maintaining and providing the highway, including a recognition of the value of the land that it occupies and the social costs such as health and accident liability. As a free marketeer, you should recognise that the most effective way of achieving this would be to privatise the roads and the right to exact tolls for travelling on them.

  43. breakfast Silver badge

    @Mike Richards

    I've noticed the increasing resistance to climate science at the reg, too. It's probably the thing I find most offputting about the site as a whole.

    I liked the old Register better, when they took a more open-minded yet sceptical approach to both sides of the argument, before they nailed their flag solely to the denial industry pole. But then the site slogan is "Integrity- we've heard of it" and the denial industry lobbyists do have a huge amount of money backing them up so it shouldn't really be a surprise.

  44. Simon


    Yeah I know what you mean.

    Biking has been turned from a credible form of gridlock beating transport into a weekend sport for posers (Go on you weekend bikers call me a tosser). On the continent a huge amount of people commute on them still.

    Ive seen people in Switzerland commute to work in suits on HDs, amazing.

    Yes I do get the MPG of a small car, but i can also do it without getting stuck in traffic, double bonus.

  45. 4a$$Monkey

    re: Motorbikes

    @ Simon: I totally agree.

    @ FlatSpot: You are kind of missing the point – yes the MPG is about the same as a small car but you don’t spend hours sitting in traffic jams on a bike so you’re not using as much fuel. Plus riding a 600cc bike is even more fun than driving high performance / sports car. If you go for a small 125cc bike the fuel economy can be a fantastic 100mpg!

    As for Sunday riders I can’t really excuse them (I live in Wales... you should see how many we get round here). But for those of us who use our bikes as our main form of transport it is a low cost and low emission alternative to a car.

  46. Spleen

    "If you think you can put a price on a life, tell me how much."

    I'll do better than that, here's three.

    The cost of improving the NHS to the extent one person lives who would otherwise die from lack of healthcare.

    The yearly economic benefit gained from people driving enough yards per year in a motor vehicle that the expected number of people who will die in a road accident that year increases by one.

    The price of installing a water pump in an African village divided by the number of people who will not die of cholera as a result.

    In reality, there are an infinite number of prices on life, with varying degrees of measurability. The healthcare one is relatively easy, I expect the NHS employ an army of cost-benefit number-crunchers to put some sort of defensible number on it. The road travel one is impossible because road travel results in too many diverse and indirect benefits. We haven't even touched on whether life should be measured in warm bodies or in lived moments - in other words, whether the life of a 80-year-old woman whose cancer we can cure so that she can die of pneumonia 5 years later is equal to the life of a 5-year-old child running across a street after a ball.

    So whaddyagonnado? Do what everyone does, that's what - get in your car, drive to the polling booth to vote for a party that doesn't promise to increase taxation to 100% in order to pay for healthcare, and on the way back buy some luxuries to the value of a Saharan water pump. And drive straight past anyone waving signs using the thought-terminating cliché "life is priceless" to justify some extravagant expansion of government.

  47. Matthew

    Back at ya

    @Rob Aley

    Of course it's about saving human life, but money is a scarce resource by definition. Every penny spent on addressing carbon emissions represents an opportunity cost against lives saved elsewhere. Not just AIDS research, how about the 10 million who die each year due to the lack of clean drinking water - a cheap and easily solveable problem?

    The money spent on reducing carbon emission could be used very cheaply to save lives right here and now, it's just not as trendy.

    For a science/engineering/IT audience, I'd expect more enthusiasm for measurement of cost/benefit.

    @ Mike Richards

    I'd forgotten the socialist utopia of 3 day weeks, British Rail, air-travel only for the rich, British Leyland, dole queues, a single broadcaster, and the winter of discontent.

    Analysis of the increase in performance and deliverables to the customer and tax-payer doesn't support your argument, e.g:

    1. British Rail was so bad, they didn't even measure delays. Rail travel is faster, safer, cheaper (don't forget the massive taxpayer subsidies under BR). Yes, it's still crap, but only because we expect more than ever before.

    2. Arts subsidies - You mean the money paid to elitist activities such as the ballet and the opera? An event that so few people want to go to that they cannot survive without the rest of us clubbing together to pay for it! Shakespear, Mozart, Dickens, Hardy were all commercial artists. What are you proposing, that committee's of people with the 'correct' opinions (remarkably similar to your own, obviously) get together to decide what the rest of us should see. Just think of the dross produced by the British Film Industry that we've all paid for and compare that to the vibrant and (often) better quality independent works produced without subsidy (Shaun of the Dead, anyone?).

    3. You show your true colours in your irritation with allowing anyone to express analysis other than your dogma - "One question, why is El Reg suddenly posting so many - shall we be kind? - counter-arguments"

    Economists (including the ASI) recognise the concept of social goods (defence/healthcare/anti-monopoly action) but look to determine the ost efficient way of achieving societal objectives. Attempting to measure costs and benefits empirically seems to get the lefties all in a steam (well, only when the facts contradict your theories). You seem to make a leap that if the facts don't agree with your opinion, the facts are wrong.

  48. Tim Worstal


    "Hmm Interesting, wonder why the author chose Weymouth as his example."

    Just came to mind....wave to my sister next time you pass by.

    "before they nailed their flag solely to the denial industry pole"

    When an article says that climate change is happening, that we're causing it and that it's going to a lot of damage in the future, pretty difficult to describe it as "denialist" isn't it?

    "OOOps but ther's the rub. I'm not "allowed" to grow hash, because it isn't just the 'market' operating here"

    I'm sure you'll be very happy to learn that the ASI fully supports your right to ingest any and every substance you should wish to. Yes, we argue very strongly (as I do individually) for the full legalisation of all narcotics. 'Coz we're liberals, see?

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    More taxes please

    We need more and more taxes on motorists so all the poor people have to travel by bus like they used to, and the more well-heeled amongst us can enjoy our posh cars on nice clear roads.

  50. g e

    But the penguins!

    Has anyone spotted that there were no Chelsea Tractors 100,000 (?) years ago so therefore we should still be in an ice age by the reasoning of these tax-crazy muppets?

    Perhaps it's just some natural bloody cycle of the planet.

    Happily, though, as I know I'm paying Gordon Brown to clean up after me I can drive a Vanquish S everywhere like my hair's on fire safe in the knowledge that my tax payments make me carbon-neutral.

    Now to AFFORD one...

  51. Mark


    On the subject of motorbikes - the poster moaning about the weekend joyriders has a point - those guys are the same ones that sit in their 4x4s in traffic jams the rest of the week. The guys who use them for commuting are far more efficent than car drivers unless the car is full and has clear roads.

    On the subject of taxing cars in general the discussion has barely touched on the true costs incurred on society of the over reliance on cars for personal transport and the resultant congestion and pollution. I have absolutely no chance of citing them all off the top of my head but here are a few ideas:

    - impact on business caused by congestion - the cost of congestion to business is far higher than the duty on fuel

    - health costs from respiratory and cancer related illness - asthma levels amongst children are higher than ever before - cancer levels aren't going away just because smoking levels are reducing - exactly the same carciogens are present in exhaust fumes as in cigarettes yet fuel is taxed far less.

    - impact on health and well being of noise pollution - noise pollution has a social impact - who pays me for the impact on my health of constant and unabating traffic noise?

    - health costs from obesity resulting from sedentary lifestyles of many car users

    - policing costs

    - accident servicing costs

    - impact on biodiversity - see the disappearance of front gardens in favour of car parking spaces.

    etc etc etc - I could go on.

    I'll agree with the poster who said I was missing the point - the chancellor should have been less inclined to link the tax rise solely to carbon reduction measures and be more open about the need to reduce car use in general and the need to raise more money to balance public finances. I believe the government has failed in many ways to produce a coherent transport policy. Personally I'd like to see far more puntive taxation on the most polluting cars with the money used to pay for heavy subsidies and improved infrastructure for public transport, rail freight, etc.

  52. breakfast Silver badge
    Thumb Up


    Technically you're not core Reg, it is more of a general trend rather than something particular about this article, which - by not jumping to the conclusion that all climate science apart from one or two cherry-picked papers is a lie - actually comes as a refreshing change from the usual editorial angle.

  53. Mark

    More taxes please

    I would agree that indiscriminate taxation is not the fairest way of dealing with this. Ideal solution would be to ration annual mileage for the whole population i.e. Total mileage for the nation / number of people with a driving license = personal mileage allowance. Unfortunately there would be no way of enforcing it - would have interesting economic effects though as a market would develop in trading of mileage allowances.

    As it is the only thing at present that is technologically and electorally viable is to discourage car use and encourage fuel efficiency by graduating road tax based ont he vehicle and taxing fuel so those that burn the most get hit with the bigger tax bill. Not very socialist as it will never curb the selfishness for the rich.

  54. James Pickett


    "What is the mpg on a motorbike.. about the same as a small car"

    That depends. Mine does 70mpg and 0-60 in under 5 seconds (although possibly not at the same time). It's vastly more eco-friendly than a car, having consumed far less material in the first place, treads lightly on the tarmac, takes up less parking space and cuts down the time on any journey involving traffic jams. I know having bikers filtering past you is annoying, but think how much worse those jams would be if they were all in cars!

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Geoff Mackenzie

    @Geoff Mackenzie

    Have you ever stopped to think what the world would be like if everyone was a biker? Sheer chaos! The National Health could never cope - think of all the children (both pedestrians and pillion passengers) that would be killed every time that it rains. Sorry, forgot for a moment that you are a biker, and almost certainly incapable of thinking ahead.

    As for pollution, bikes may put out less CO2 per mile, but they put out far more NOX etc

  56. Anonymous Coward

    @Its not economics - Rob Aley

    re: Because even though the economists (and you) may think you can put a price on a life, you can't. And global warming will cost lives.

    If you think you can put a price on a life, tell me how much. I will give you the money and then kill you.


    George Monbiot (easily google-able) did an interesting piece on the Stern report, and apparently the carbon cost of far off disasters in Stern's analysis is the loss of economic activity caused by the poor victim's disappearance.

    So yes, economists can and do put a price on life, and if it's third world, it ain't much.

  57. Rob Aley
    Thumb Down

    Cost of a life (back at ya & ya)

    @Spleen & Matthew

    How many lives you can save for a given amount of money (which certainly should be maximised) doesn't mean that the amount spent per life saved is the cost of a life. Spending 50p to imunise a child doesn't mean that that child's life is worth 50p.

    The money taken in tax isn't money taken from other life-saving endevours. And the idea of a green tax is to not take the tax at all, but to reduce the usage so that you take no tax in the end.

    The point of the article was that we can offset the cost in lives in the future with a monetary cost today. While there is often a fixed amount of money that can save lives, there isn't a fixed amount that can compensate for the loss of a life.

    "The money spent on reducing carbon emission could be used very cheaply to save lives right here and now, it's just not as trendy"

    Are you currently donating the money you will be taxed to these causes? Nope, neither is anyone else. And even if you are, you will still have that tax money to donate if you cut your carbon usage (and with the benefit of saving lives in the future as well as now).

    "For a science/engineering/IT audience, I'd expect more enthusiasm for measurement of cost/benefit."

    For a GOOD science/engineering/IT audience I would expect an appreciation that the "cost" in "cost/benefit" isn't just a monetary one.

    I run a small business selling Fairtrade Tea & Coffee. We have adopted a low-carbon approach, and saved money doing it. We save now, and help with the future.

  58. A J Stiles


    Please stop believing that hiking up fuel duty has anything to do with protecting the environment. Increasing the price of using a car will not reduce the amount of car use, for one simple reason and one reason alone: There is *no* alternative to the motor car.

    Government policy over the years has forced everyone to be dependent on cars just for the bare necessities of life. Most workplaces are inaccessible by public transport; even in the best cases, public transport users have to make a choice between arriving the best part of an hour early or arriving a few minutes late. Chances are that you'll have a long wait for a connecting service in town -- or two, if you're really unlucky. And the housing market is such that relocating to within walking or cycling distance of both partners' workplaces (if there even exists such a locus!) is unlikely to be a realistic option.

    Having travelled to work to earn some wages, presumably you'll want to spend them. Which, given the rents in cities, almost invariably means an out-of-town retail park. And even if you could deal with manoeuvring your shopping onto a bus or train, you are unlikely to find one serving such a place. Even if you do, getting home is likely to require two buses and a wait for a connection. And all the while, your frozen food is thawing out. (Yes, you *could* get your perishables from a local shop, petrol station or somewhere similar -- if you didn't mind the extortionate markups or the dire selection.)

    If -- after what you've spent on fares and markups -- you've any money left over to go out and enjoy yourself of an evening, once again good luck getting there by public transport. Or more precisely, good luck getting *back*. Chances are, the buses stopped running before 22:00 -- or at least they only go as far as the depot, not into town.

    Not owning a motor car is not a viable prospect -- THAT is the issue which really needs to be addressed. But the Government are making far too much money out of our car dependence to do anything which might break it. And you can manage very well without a car in London -- which is all that most visitors ever see of the UK, so they get the impression that everywhere else is the same.

  59. Anonymous Coward

    Hydrogen cars are Free !!!!!!

    Well all the polution is offset already to where ever the energy to make the hydrogen came from.

  60. Frank Bough

    The Real Agenda on Personal Transport Tax that road pricing be introduced as rapidly as possible to try and mitigate the catastrophic effects of the POSSIBLE, IMMINENT arrival of practical plug-in electric cars. Obviously, the measures announced yesterday won't discourage a single Touareg or Cayenne buyer, what's a grand on top of >£50K monsterhatch? It just gets lost in the dealer's margin. As for the delayed fuel duty hike well, that's equally meaningless seeing as the treasury has already had a huge windfall as oil prices have risen, and the party looks like continuing as oil prices carry on rising.

  61. Perpetual Cyclist

    55 comments and no-one has noticed...

    that the price of oil is at an all time high of £55/barrel.

    So what? Tax is 80% of the price. Err, not any more... it's below 70% and falling.

    Now just pretend we hadn't had 70% tax the last 20 years. We could all have afforded to drive US style V8s that get 15mpg. Then in the years since 2004 the price of petrol would have gone up 300% and we would really have something to gripe about. As it is, it has gone up less than 50%.

    So, all that tax has saved us a nasty shock these last few years. So am I in favour of the extra 2p /litre tax? Not really. It's done its job. We have passed peak oil. From here on in the price of oil is going to double every two years until the global economy collapses. Each doubling in price is going to hurt us much more, as the taxation buffer is eroded. The only good news is that it is hurting those damn Yankees with their 50 mile commutes in V8 SUVs and wars for oil even more than it is hurting us.

  62. Andrew Davenport

    Arent people missing the point?

    Why do these people not realise what in my mind are two very important points..

    a) people will carry on driving anyway, they will either save somewhere else and use the money to fund the car or just buy smaller cars (i know this in part will help but its a minor point)

    b) no matter how much and how hard you tax producers of CO2 you cannot buy back a cooler climate or fresher air. How can you throw money at a problem that is not tangible in the sense that you cannot add or subtract to it?

    I think its high time the government grew some balls and forced the manufacturers of cars and those creating pollution to use green methods, you dont for one minute think that the car manufacturers have not already got viable alternatives (which reminds me of the spark plug that burnt 90% of the fuel in the cylinder, the product was bought out by shell and shelved and this was something that was invented over 10 years ago!).

    Stop making the consumer clean up and make the people that make the filth responsible!

  63. Anonymous Coward

    [Deity of choice] help us all ....

    It took everything I had to make myself read past this paragraph....

    "Yes, it is, we're causing it and it's going to impose some pretty big costs in the future. At this point what we really want to know is how big are those costs going to be? So let's throw in the value of Bangladesh before it sinks below the waves, the polar bears, Tuvalu too. The change in weather patterns, the moving northwards of the malaria belt, let's tot it all up and we'll get to some gargantuan number. Let us also look at how many tonnes of carbon dioxide (strictly speaking, carbon dioxide equivalent, CO2-e, to convert methane, NOx and so on to one unit) emitted will lead us to that cost. Divide one by the other and we have the damage that one tonne of CO2 will do."

    Why is free-market fundamentalist thinking not met with the same disgust as that of religious zealouts?

    Please please please put a stop to this obsessive-compulsive desire to put an economic price tag on every damn thing on this planet, including human beings (the result of successful fundamentalist indoctrination). How sad it must be not to be able to shake off thinking in this paradigm. I wonder if psychology will devise a term for such people? Something along the lines of ...

    sociopath [(soh-see-uh-path, soh-shee-uh-path)]

    Sociopaths are interested only in their personal needs and desires, without concern for the effects of their behavior on others.

  64. Peter

    @Tim W

    "I'm sure you'll be very happy to learn that the ASI fully supports your right to ingest any and every substance you should wish to. Yes, we argue very strongly (as I do individually) for the full legalisation of all narcotics. 'Coz we're liberals, see?"

    Quite frankly my dear I don't give a damn....

    I think you'll find that such views are 'Libertarian' rather than 'Liberal', but that's just nit-picking.

    More to the point your "support" for liberalising the laws merely confirms that there is currently a constraint. As the Afghani farmers or Columbian Coke growers have discovered no matter how profitable (or merely capable of sustaining subsistance) a crop can be, when someone with a big gun says "No" (or "yes") it pays to obey, seriously screwing the free market! Of course the Real World is full of people with both pysical and metaphorical big guns who have absolutely no investment in absolutist market economics.

  65. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Lets all move overseas somewhere nice

    I think we all agree that its just another way to feck us up the ar$e for more money for The Man to spend on war,hookers and they massive pay increase.Up the revolution i say :)

    the helicopter coz i must be on a list by now

  66. Ted Treen


    As there were sufficient retards (cerebrally challenged, if that gives you a cosier glow) to vote in this chronically incompetent bunch of cynical pathological liars not once, not twice but thrice, there are obviously sufficient of the said retards remaining to swallow the crap emanating from the Caledonian badger - who is, admittedly, just a glove puppet for The Supreme Leader.

    They can count on these idiots, so they don't bother to conceal their contempt for the rest of us.

    A plague on their houses!

  67. FlatSpot

    re: Motorbikes

    hehe nice the interest in my relationship...

    For the record, I commute once a week and dont sit in any traffic jams, I spend the remainder of the week using modern technology such as a broadband line, vpn and a mobile phone so I dont need to commute further than the next room.

    So I dont think I'm missing the point, just making a point that they arent some magic bullet solution that you can feel so pompous about.

    I only speed on motorways and follow the speed limits the reminder of the time and never use a mobile in the car.

    "was you dumped by a biker with a Harley, " Thats a negative they just happen to make even more noise about it for no reason at all. I would like to see a sound tax, that would be great.. take all those tosser boom boys out as well.

    Maybe all your excitable bikers might think once in a while, when you are driving along a road and the speed limit drops to a 30mph.. its there for a reason, not always safety but noise as well! Yeah its nice that you could do it at 60 and make so much noise about it...

    Regarding burn out at the weekend... yeah you are so cool, I'm humbled. Maybe spend some time with your kids down the park or do something more constructive with your time... nice example of the self self screw everyone else society.

  68. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tax me Quick

    Tax should be on new cars, the creation of new Items will consume far more CO2 in the manufacturing and transportation than any amount from the day to day running.

    I have a Chelsea tractor, for very good reasons of the size of the boot and the goods I need to carry, it's years old and must have an overall smaller CO2 footprint than two or three new small cars, no matter how fuel efficient these inappropriate vehicles would be.

    All the rise in Road Tax for larger cars has done is make it difficult to sell them, and to be honest even at £500 pounds a year for Road Tax, it pails into insignificance when compared to the amount of fuel duty paid.

  69. Ben Tasker

    Re: Motorbikes

    It's already been pointed out that whilst some bikes do make the same economy as a small car, they don't sit in traffic, so I thought I would touch a bit more on the subject of weekend riders.

    I commute to work every day, and regularly find myself sat at the back of a nice long tailback purely because there are too many cars on the road at that time of day (and occassionally because someone has tried to turn down the radio whilst talking on their phone and negotiating a double roundabout). It may be annoying to have bikers drive past you whilst you are sat stock still, but lets face it, if you could you would.

    I've seen cars do it, in fact I've had people nearly knock me off because they've pulled out to drive down the wrong side of the rode, despite me coming towards them, with my headlight on as the 'oncoming traffic.'

    If I have spare time at the weekend, then I will go for a ride, and my partner often comes with me on her little 125, it's actually a very enjoyable part of our relationship. There are a lot of people who only ride at the weekend, but that is their choice. Riding a bike is no more poser-ish than driving a sports car, or fitting a loud ehxaust system onto a crappy Golf.

    My bike is loud, but then a 650 V-Twin going through an aftermarket exhaust (Yes its road legal, and no I didn't buy it, it came on the bike) is always going to be. It may be an annoyance to you, but I'll tell you what, i get far less cars pull out on me now that they can hear me coming. I don't tend to hit the higher rev ranges driving through town so in the evenings my 'noise' is limited to a low rumble, quieter than the music coming from most of the chavvy cars driving around, let alone their bodged exhaust jobs.

    When it comes down to it, I pay less Road Tax, less fuel tax and get to my destination faster than you. Perhaps bikes are not your thing, perhaps as someone suggests you got dumped by/for a biker. Either way, from my point of view I'm far better off than you, though I'm sure you would disagree.

    Driving cars bores me, when in charge of something doing 70MPH (you wouldn't speed would you??) you should not be comfortable enough to be able to fall asleep. You shouldn't have the distractions people have in a car, your focus should be on the road and nothing but.

    Don't get me started on people talking on phones whilst driving!

  70. Anonymous Coward

    Green ?!

    So green that there's still no mention of plans for a concerted public transport infrastructure as initially proposed by labour BEFORE ol' Tony got in to power...

    GAAaaaaahh Don't kick the motorist etc until you've first given them a viable option *mumble mumble*.. Oh, and for those who think that bikes are the answer.. you try shopping with kids too small to walk AND manage the blasted shopping on a bike, let alone the disabled or infirm AAAAArghghgh saints preserve us from those who clearly can't think outside their own misbegotten worlds which clearly contain no more than ivory towers !!! GAH!

    and another thing... don't get me started on the fossil fuel power proposal which may not need to bother with CC tech to get the planning go ahead or requiring industry to publish it's CO2 waste figures.

    Great steaming belly buttons.... Green my AR**. It's only a green claim if the gov see the money in it ! What a wonderful world it is. The only green I can see are the layers of slime used to oil the cogs of spin.

    BAH !

  71. Richard

    All hail the smart one!

    Mike Richards (AKA Kramer) was spot on about the Adam Smith Institute.

    When I was a nipper, we had a guy (Perry something, I think) from the ASI come talk to our school.

    My post was going to be a long and rambling story, but the point was this, the ASI is a group of selfish, 'there is no such thing as society' fascists.

    The End

  72. Alex

    It's all pointless

    Discussing the need and 'correct' level of taxation is pointless.

    If England truly was an island (in financial terms) with absolutley zero effect being exerted by external forces then the calculation would be simple.

    There is absolutely no way the population of the country can both spend enough money on goods and services + tax to pay for both our salaries as well as all those other pesky things we need like roads and health care etc.

    It therefore becomes obvious that the only thing that can possibly drive us forward is an external force of which there are limited options:

    1. Foreigners buying our goods thereby pumping cash into our economy.


    2. Somone else living way below what we define as the poverty line in order to carry out the tasks needed to move us forward.... like manufacturing.

    This simple truth is quite a scary one because it inevitably leads to the conclusion that on a global scale the current way of doing things can never lead to a great life for all.

    So, quit whining about tax and start building that fallout shelter cos when a billion Chinese wise up and start looking for our standard of living and the oil runs out what do you think is going to happen?

  73. Anonymous Coward

    Re: Motorbikes

    Oh please stop referring to Har"d"leys as motorbikes. They aren't.

  74. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    Flame fodder

    I'm not a climateologist, but I have to say that I believe that the current published science of climate change is skewed towards proving that we are to blame.

    The way this works is that research money has to be justified in advance by the researcher before the research starts. So researcher A asks for money to find why the Polar Bear population is reducing. Researcher B asks for money to research how man-made global warming is affecting Polar Bear populations.

    Faced with the titles of these two research projects, the politicians (who ultimatly hold the purse strings in most western states) decide that the latter one is in keeping with their green agenda so has political value as well as scientific. So, the research starts off with a biased premise, skewing the perception when the results are presented out-of-context. It's like saying that all scientists who are looking for man-made climate change agree that their research concludes it is happening. What a surprise that they have found what they were looking for. Hey, they've justified their funding. This is the IPCC to a tee, and dissenting voices are shouted down.

    Now, please don't get me wrong. Climate change is happening, and we are contributing to it in many different ways. But from what I have gleened, we are at the end of an ice age, the amout of geological change is reducing, affecting the long-term carbon cycle (look it up), and the Earth may be returning to a more 'normal' (in geological time frames) tempreture after about two million years of cold. This probably would happen even if we were to stop producing carbon dioxide tomorrow. I reference the BBC series Earth Story (ep. 6) to help support this claim.

    I agree that we should reduce fossil fuel use, not to reduce carbon in the atmosphere, but because they are precious resources which will never be replaced naturally in any useful (to us) timeframe.

    I'll just don my asbestos coat.

  75. Niall Campbell
    Paris Hilton

    @ Andy Taylor

    Vehicle Excise Duty was once upon a time known as Road Fund Licence but the money raised was never spent on roads so they came clean on that one.

    What the Government should really be addressing is the fact that they charge duty on fuel (and other non-essential products like alcohol) on the base price and we then get hit a second time by the VAT at 17.5%, thus bringing billions into the Treasury via their double bubble.

    What they should do is charge VAT only on fuel and booze and then add the duty which would make everyone much better off.

    In the case of fuel, 70% of what we pay goes directly to the Treasury.

    So when you pay £1.10 per litre at the pump, what you're paying for really costs 33p/l while the bulk of price goes to fund illegal wars, ID cards and Ministers pensions.

    If you really look at where the money goes, billions of pounds flow into the pockets of business via PFI, crappy IT schemes and rent for Government buildings we used to owwn but sold off for a pittance to companies registered in the Cayman Islands.

    Is anyone aware that HMRC sold all their offices to a company called Mapeley for only £150million and has been paid more than that in rent in less than five years?

    Quite frankly, this cuntry is fcuked. The working man gets more and more screwed by this supposed Socialist government while the fatcats skim off the milk and bleed us all dry. Even the Tories are more left wing IMHO.

    How can you tell when a politician is lying?

    Their lips move!

    PH because she knows more about finance than our politicians.

  76. Ben Tasker

    @Anonymous Coward

    Not your fault, perhaps its because people have got onto the subject of motorcycles but I couldn't read your last Paragraph without thinking of my first 125, and AR125 the manual even had AR** printed on the front as it applied to all bikes within the AR range (50, 125 etc.)

    You are of course right about shopping and kids, but then as I don't have kids its not an issue for me, and with panniers, tanks bags and a rucksack shopping has never been an issure for me. For me a car is impractical because I do not need/want the 'benefits' such as extra room for shopping, ability to carry more than one passenger, and hell if I need the extra space I am insured to tow a trailer.

    There is no right or wrong in the bike/car debate. Its simply a case of whats more practical for the driver in question. Personally I have no need or desire for a car, but I appreciate that others do. My issue lies with people who drive irresponsibly (bikes or cars) though one person in a car seems irresponsible for me. There are of course circumstances when it is necessary or inavoidable, but otherwise it should be avoided.

    Either way there is no difference in terms of 'posers' between car drivers and bikers, aside from the fact you can get a _very_ nice bike for far newer notes than the equivalent car. The insurance can quite often balance it out though.

    Whether you are driving a car or a bike, drivers should be more aware of those around them, and should conceed that they don't own the road.

    Anyone else find it weird that the usual phrasing is Drive a Car, yet ride a motorcycle?? Technically you ride both, the only thing you really drive is a pedal cycle. Motorcycles and cars are both driven by the engine, you simply control it.

    Strange use of english that really........

    Stop sign because I wish more people would obey them.

  77. Sean Baggaley

    CO2 is not the problem.

    As others have pointed out, the main problem faced by Old World cities like London, Manchester, Rome and Naples isn't the CO2 as such: it's the *congestion*.

    CO2 emissions and other pollutants can -- and, in general, are -- being solved (albeit slowly) by scientists. However, the problem of providing a door-to-door transportation system is still proving extremely difficult to solve. We've tried feet, but humans cannot carry much. The motive power of the automobile may eventually switch to electricity, hydrogen or unobtainium, but it doesn't solve the congestion problem.

    Even horses fail the congestion test. The congestion the humble horse and cart of old managed to create in London during the mid-1800s proved great enough to trigger the construction of the first stretch of what is now London's Underground rail network.

    Traditional light rail is a dead-end technology: adding yet another road-using device to the infrastructure isn't going to solve congestion issues on, say, the A205 South Circular or the A20 through New Cross and Lewisham. The key problems are ridiculously narrow roads given their traffic, and the chronic lack of investment in the infrastructure. Squeezing trams onto the same roads will only make the congestion worse: light rail isn't designed for commuting; it's too slow for that. It's intended for _local_ users. (Croydon Tramlink's own metrics are based around reducing car journeys to and from *Croydon*, not cutting through traffic on the A23 between Brighton and London.)

    It isn't just the roads either: if the trains in the South-East of England were any bloody good, we might consider using them. Unfortunately -- and ASI members, please note -- the *private* companies that built the original rail network around here during the 1800s were such bitter rivals that they frequently duplicated routes out of sheer spite, while constructing their core network as cheaply as possible. The result of which is a dearth of grade-separated junctions and the ludicrous situation of a 20MPH speed limit for trains between London Bridge, Cannon Street, Blackfriars (Thameslink), Waterloo East and Charing Cross.

    People would be happy to use alternatives, if viable alternatives existed. As it is, London's rail network is already so saturated that it deliberately tries to price people *off* it, to *reduce* demand during peak hours -- exactly the hours when most of the region's population is *contractually obliged* to come into work! (No, my tree-hugging friends, we don't commute out of spite. We do it because the people we work for *require* us to be in that office by 0900 hrs!)

    Cycling into the City from Dartford or Gravesend in a howling gale isn't really an option: the advantage of trains is that we can actually get some work done while travelling (in theory; in practice you can barely find space to stand). You can't do that on a bike, so it's an hour or two wasted. In each direction. And you're utterly *knackered* by the time you reach your destination.

    One of the lesser-known advantages of a service industry is that it doesn't need to be close to anything other than good communications links and decent transport. London -- especially south-east London -- is headed for a massive wake-up call soon. The BBC is already relocating a number of operations to Manchester. They're not the first to move away, and I doubt they'll be the last.

  78. StopthePropaganda
    Thumb Down

    Hey, I have this theory too! Start by rejecting reason, common sense, etc.

    but first, you have to start out by accepting and believing with your whole being that spaceflight capable DC3's dropped bombs into prehistoric volcanoes, that the Earth was created in seven days and rides the backs of turtles, and that this is at least the third time your soul has been recycled on this planet. And that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is the Noodly Creator. You must also believe that the consensus of Stoned Mathematicians accepts "1+1=3"

    My tax is the "Alfredo Tax". If you accept all the faith based, unscientific hogwash and consensus herd-beliefs, the FSM in His Noodliness prefers marinara. So a tax of 100% on all white pasta sauces is intended to switch conusmers' behavior to this Holy Preferred Style. Makes perfect sense, right? Because "Consensus" believes that people only make choices based on price. Do not question Consensus. Consensus is your friend.

    Next week, on the same "ignore all the facts and research or anything that goes against my faith based BS premise" schtick, I will propose a "Coke Tax" and bring an end to the Cola Wars.

    Sheesh. This is politics at it's worst. When confronted with the stupidity of a government idea, leftists try to kill logic by switching to an emotional "think of the children" knee-jerk defense, while right-wing corporate kingpins pull the "ignore all these inconvenient facts, accept my base premise on faith and *then* the logic makes sense so accept it all!" trick.

    Both have shown to produce nothing but government interference that leads to worse problems. The only solution is less government. Especially unelected supernational organizations with members appointed by socialist dictators and are totally unaccountable for their actions.

  79. Spleen

    Re: 14:08

    "Why is free-market fundamentalist thinking not met with the same disgust as that of religious zealouts?

    Please please please put a stop to this obsessive-compulsive desire to put an economic price tag on every damn thing on this planet, including human beings (the result of successful fundamentalist indoctrination)."

    We don't put economic price tags on human beings anymore than physicists force numbers on falling objects and orbiting planets. The numbers are already there, as they are in everything, the entire fabric of the universe, and that includes human pleasure and, by extension, human life. If you are a functioning member of society, if you make choices, particularly ones involving currency, then you are doing the numbers, even if you don't recognise them as such, in the same way that a golf player doesn't need to calculate gravity, force, slope, windspeed and distance with a pencil and a calculator to hit a ball into a hole. Economics is just about working out how they work, just as to figure out why the ball lands on the fairway instead of going up and up until it leaves the atmosphere, you need a physicist, not a golfer.

    Economists are the exact opposite of sociopaths by your definition. Not only are they not disinterested in others' needs and desires, others' needs and desires are their entire field of interest. Your comparison with religious zealots is completely untenable - zealots are not interested in the needs and desires of others, nor even in the needs and desires of themselves, they are only interested in the whims and desires of an invisible being which they alone claim to understand. Worse than a sociopath, a kind of twisted sociopath-by-proxy.

  80. chris

    And who decides much Bangladesh is worth? Would it be the same money-obsessed Washington consensus loons that got us in this mess in the first place?

    Spurious nonsense.

  81. Anonymous Coward

    Some sense at last...

    How long will the myth that taxation will change behaviours continue? Cigarettes, fuel and alcohol all being taxed more, but am I going to stop using either? NO! Not because I have a death wish, but because I don't feel any different about these things from any of the propoganda I'm told.

    As an intelligent adult and not a Daily Mail reader, and an honours graduate scientist to boot, I have as yet seen no compelling case made for man-made climate change. There is evidence for it, but there is more convincing evidence that...we are leaving an ice age and climate change is a natural part of that.

    However. I do wear a seat belt. I stick to speed limits. I have a clean licence. Why do I behave in this way? Because a compelling, clear and plausible (sp?) case was made for so doing, and as an intelligent adult I comply with that. Do the same for climate change, and who knows? People may change their behaviours.

    But until the hysteria and propaganda of the neo-anarchist greens dies away, we as a society will not change. And then, even if we wanted to, what would we change to? Public transport that I have to use on occasion is a joke.

    I do think it is a sensible thing to use less of the finite fossil resources open to us and drive technology to use truly renewable sources (solar,wind, fusion) but that is because I believe humanity has a future unlike the green doom-mongers who want us all to die horribly and won't let off that message...which is why no-one is listening. Except the posturing politicians and the pandering press, of course....

    It's all hogwash. Grr.

  82. Keith Spencer

    It's the energy gap....stupid

    Peter Gathercole

    I think you are to some extent correct. There is a natural bias in science (I am a scientists and there are numerous fads that come and go) where science gravitates towards the funding. And much of the climate change science field work at places named "the such and such institute of climate change". It's pretty natural to expect that they aren't going to go look for data that might burst their bubble, conciously or not. But in general I'd say that the work is pretty good although I suspect that there will be some pretty serious revisions to the area in the coming years as we learn more and maybe things will settle down a little. So you're half right Peter.

    Overall though it seem that people have missed the point of this article. We are fundamentally missing the big issue here. CO2 from cars emission are pretty much irrelevant. The big issue is energy (the energy cost to refine oil is huge for example) and this us where we have to concentrate our efforts, not pathetic little scams from the brainless blonde. It's worth pointing out that the CO2 efficiency of many trains is pretty awful so public transport isn't somehow wonderful (I use it every day and man is it piss poor) from a CO2 point of view. It's energy, though, that the killer. We've got to work harder on that. A good balance of renewable, nuclear etc and longer term the hope of fusion. So this article actually, whilst rather dry, does illuminate the fallacy of current tax policy when it comes to climate change.

    Right I'm off to get into my massively fast 3.0l sports car and burn some carbon.

  83. chris

    And another thing...

    Away with this myth that car drivers are subsidising anything, or in some way unfairly burdened. The hidden costs of air pollution are massive.

    The health of my lungs is subsidising the warmth of your lazy arses as you clog the roads on your commutes and school-runs.

  84. andy

    Global Warming is a scam!!!

    ...and you've all been duped into paying for it!!!

  85. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Motorbikes. Kinda.

    If I ran my VFR on methane, that would have otherwise escaped into the atmosphere, could I claim $1700,- per tonne?

    Somehow, I think it may not work out that way.

  86. Mark

    CO2 is not the Problem

    Reducing congestion would reduce carbon emissions. But we can't just keep concreting over everything to make space for more cars - after all the world is supposed to be a good place for people, not the cars and the two do not go hand in hand.

    The only solution is a viable public transport infrastructure for longer journeys and people having to get off their backsides and walk or cycle the shorter trips.

  87. Anonymous Coward

    Re: Back at ya


    "You seem to make a leap that if the facts don't agree with your opinion, the facts are wrong."

    You seem to make an even bigger leap. Economic theory is *not* *proven* *fact*. It's hardly even theory -- it's a philosophy.

    Stern's valuations are, at best, estimates -- they are not facts by any stretch of the word.

  88. Matthew

    And back at ya again

    The academic argument of the value/cost of a life is irrelevant. An item is only worth what somebody is willing to pay for it. Life is the most valuable possession to it's 'owner'. They would pay everything for it, therefore it's priceless.

    What we are talking about here is maximising the use of those scarce resources to ensure that we get the best results. My point is that the issue is the allocation of scarce resources - people are spending time and money 'inefficiently' on cutting carbon emissions. I don't trust governments to do this well, and I particularly don't trust people who tell me how to think (my home country was a totalitarian regime that crushed opposition for most of my upbringing).

    "Are you currently donating the money you will be taxed to these causes?" A typical argument to deflect attention to my green credentials. And the answer is: some of it, and some of my time goes to supporting AIDS orphans in my home country, but as my disposable income reduces due to increasing taxation I have less money to give, and I have to spend more time at work to cover my increase in taxes, therefore I have less time to give. Do I trust the public sector to do this efficiently on my behalf? Hahahaha! Also, as the economy slows due to the inefficient allocation of resources (£10 billion wasted in the NHS since 2004 - imagine how many private sector heads would've rolled for that), I have even less disposable income to feed the machine.

    Isn't it wonderfully ironic that 'free-market fundamenalists' (I LOVE that expression, it's so bogeyman-ish!) who propose that prescribing behaviour to individuals is wrong and who argue for stronger individual choice are derided by the group-think (what the party decrees as correct think, obviously), do-as-we-tell-you crowd as facists!

  89. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    free energy

    thats ok. its all good. because Stern have a free energy solution they've been trying to peddle for ages to fix the problem of climate change.

    It involves using a spinning wheel made out of transparent plastic and magnetics placed at 90 degree angles. it will solve all our fuel problems.

    you did say steorn didn't you?

  90. Bounty

    ummm you have to pay to undo it

    What's the cost to take a ton of CO2 from the air, and secure it underground etc. where it came from? That's what needs to be the goal. Assuming the taxes actually get used to put the CO2 underground. It could be adjusted as technology to do this gets better.

  91. StopthePropaganda
    Thumb Down

    @ biker haters

    yeah, I "only" get, on my commute, a *measured* (not some EPA fantasy the sticker says, but measured on my actual commute of actual time stopped at lights, etc) 42MPG commuting. On long highway trips I get over 50MPG (US gallons).

    But, I get those numbers driving like an @ss most of the time. 1300cc's, 120 RWHP. Quick launches from lights and the occasional peg touchdown going up the cloverleaf onramp to actually be matching traffic speed when merging instead of slowing. It's fun. I don't smoke, drink, or ingest poisonous narcotics, so it's my one vice.

    If I were to retune the bike's ECU (which I can't now because the device is now illegal in California) to make performance inline with the average ricer-racer or taco-ed out pimp mobile, (or exercise a lot more moderation in throttle settings..not likely) I would be seeing well in excess of 80MPG.

    Not even going into the much reduced amount of materials and waste going into the manufacture of any bike vs. some economobile, I'm still doing better in real world driving than any of you hybrid people tooting your own green horn. Especially "hybrid SUV's" driven by a single person with no children, sporting some leftist soundbite bumper stickers. Yeah, your sticker claims that vehicle averages 32 mpg. But you know damn well in your real commute you see under 30-which for some reason is the same mileage my 12 year old V6 minivan and my 19 year old turbocharged 4 cylinder sports car get-plus since I bought those used I recycled literally tons of materials and prevented the need to waste even more on the manufacture of equivalent brand new vehicles to satisfy my "green viagra" needs.

    get over it. Bikers have gotten better mileage, more efficiency and lower volume of toxic emissions since long before your father started growing his hair out and hating "The Man". The Japanese get it, most Pacific Island nations get it, India gets it, and China used to get it. hell, even France understood the superiority of the lightweight 2 wheeler in a tight urban environment. But the so called "green-minded" politicians and the sheeple of the American Left *and* Right still try their best to suppress the best option available. Why? Because it works for The People. And bike hating elitists can't have The People getting the same benefits and conveniences only they "deserve".

    gotta save that for high ranking Party members only.

  92. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Green Tax?

    When will the government learn that calling a tax by any other name is still a tax ? Oh that's right there politicians.

  93. richard


    figures,'s all bloody scaremongering as usual to excuse (feebly) hikes in taxes for the working man. as soon as china/india/random former ussr country start taking co2 seriously, then so will i.

    when the government produces a serious public transport idea, i will listen.

    stop going to war when the people don't want to - it's not making us any safer, the bloke who just ran down the heathrow runway could have caused a catastrophe, of course it's nothing to do with the war gordon.....

    complete and utter bollocks the lot.

  94. Sean Baggaley

    RE: CO2 is not the problem.

    "Reducing congestion would reduce carbon emissions. But we can't just keep concreting over everything to make space for more cars - after all the world is supposed to be a good place for people, not the cars and the two do not go hand in hand."

    Since when was the automobile the one and only means of providing a door-to-door transportation system? There are any number of perfectly viable alternatives. Sure, it'd mean building new infrastructure, but those traffic lights, zebra crossings, motorways and road signs didn't magically appear out of nowhere.

    Personally, I favour the idea of building a "physical internet". (The Victorians naturally toyed with the idea: Google "London Pneumatic Despatch Company".) If we could send our shopping home separately, instead of carrying it around with us on the train, we would reduce the need for cars. Construction of something like this may sound expensive, but no more so than constructing all the other door-to-door services we already have in the developed world: water, sewage, electricity, gas, etc. (Building a door-to-door network for freight would also be cheaper than one for humans as the Health & Safety fascists don't care what happens to tinned peas.)

    That's just one notion off the top of my head. There's plenty of R&D at universities around the world looking into alternative door-to-door transport systems, from freight trams -- already in use in some parts of the world; through building new roads beneath existing ones to segregate motorised and non-motorised transport; right up to completely new transportation systems based on suspended rail systems.

    What is important to the end user is the *interface* -- the "door-to-door" part -- NOT the implementation! I don't care *how* a transport system gets me from my home to my destination.

    It's time to stop treating the automobile as the acme of such design, 'cos it bloody well isn't anything of the sort. Had the automobile been invented last year, it's a given that we'd have to build completely segregated road networks for them, instead of having them share the same infrastructure as non-motorised transport such as bicycles and pedestrians. This may yet come to pass. (It'd certainly cut down road deaths. And forcing cars underground would make it feasible to fit current collectors to them, massively reducing the need for energy-storage systems like batteries or hydrogen tanks.)

    I'm amazed nobody else has made the same points. Isn't this a *technology* website?

  95. Phil Endecott

    Polar bears and money

    Just how do you work out how much its ice-flow is worth to a polar bear in dollars?

    I guess that you measure it by how much money is lost by *people* when the polar bears are extinct, i.e. next to nothing.

    While it is slightly easier to put a monetary value on the living-space of Bangladesh, i.e. how much compensation you need to pay them when their villages disappear beneath the waves, I fear that this will be on the same basis as the compensation paid to their Indian neighbours in Bophal i.e. the absolute minimum (about $500) and years late.

    Believing that everything can be equated to money is an evil attitude, and I don't want to live in a society that works in that way.

  96. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters


    Public transport in the UK is shite. Rail and bus services are less frequent, less reliable and more expensive than in most other European countries.

    There is a reason for this. Its not underinvestment, its not poor management, its not profiteering bus and train companies.

    I'll tell you what it is. Public transport is shite in the UK because it suits the Government for it to be shite. If we had an efficient, cheap and reliable public transport system then we would all start using it instead of our overtaxed cars and the Government's (so called) "green" taxes wouldn't do the job they are intended to do (fleecing anyone who wants to get from A to B)

  97. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "We don't put economic price tags on human beings anymore than physicists force numbers on falling objects and orbiting planets"

    Is that some sort of justification for reducing people and everything to a dollar symbol ? Just because physics does something similar with the universe doesn't make a similar process applied to humans right! We are not objects, we are human beings, we have feelings/emotions/consciousness. What is good for celestial objects is not necessarily good for me and you. For god's sake man, listen to what you are saying.

    "[religious zealots] are only interested in the whims and desires of an invisible being which they alone claim to understand."

    If I didn't know any better I would swear you were talking about the "free-market" and economists. Brilliant !

    If you really want to know where economics all went so horribly wrong read as much as you can on Edward Bernays the PR guru (his cousin being Sigmund Freud) and his own publications. His cousin Freud has some, shall we say, well dodgy theories on human nature. What a pity his cousin extrapolated on these theories and kick started what we now call "consumerism".

  98. Stuart Wells

    Muahhahahahahaaaaa.... cough..cough

    Green Taxes.... my erm.... there is and never has been anything green about taxes. Except for the queasy feeling the day after budget day. The only thing you need to know is that this government owes about £540 billion pounds (conservative estimate) or if you look at the private partnership garbage, northern rock etc etc it tots up to a bout £1100 billion.

    Taxes for interest payments. Thats it. End of.

  99. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    you can thank that insufferable prick, Al Gore

    Either start walking or grab your ankles.

  100. frymaster


    "I'll tell you what it is. Public transport is shite in the UK because it suits the Government for it to be shite."

    Yes, because they've nothing better to do in Parliament all day than interfere with local politics.

    I had this blinding inspiration, so decided to live in a CITY. Specifically, the same city where I work. These "cities" have this wonderful invention called a "bus". My brother has a car because he does river kayaking at the weekend. He uses the buses during the week - it's cheaper, and faster, and you don't have to park.

    Now if only most people lived in cities, we could have public transport... oh, hang on a minute, they do.

  101. Anonymous Coward

    Adam Smith Institute? The Register?

    However bad Blair may have been, as others have already noted, things would have been at least a bit worse if these particular lunatics had been in charge of this particular asylum (as the current state of the US economy illustrates only too well, but ours isn't a great deal better).

    What's the idea here? Register "management" feeling a bit of "balance" might be needed to counteract the lovely stuff from the lovely Lewis Page? In which case why not set the two of them to blog against each other on the virtues of (say) nuclear power or bribes to Saudi Arabia?

    Or else stop it. Right now. Or I'll cancel my subscription forthwith.

  102. Beachhutman

    Greed not gree

    Darling's taxes are nothing to do with climate change, they are to do with the dire state of the UK economy. The cash won't get spent on the environmental issues he rumpets, any more than roqad tax gets spent on roads. it'll get spent on wars and ID cards, And keeping Labour MPs' snouts in the trough. But while we're about it, the VED bands don't make sense. As all the CO2 a car emits is based on the Carbon it puts in as fuel (the Oxygen being in the air already) then a car that does 36 mpg (MINE, right?) simply CANNOT produce as much CO2 per kilometer as a car that does 20 MPG. Like the fabled Chelsea tractor. But to the tax people, they both produce the same CO2 per Km. Ed Balls.They don't. Ergo it's about cash, not carbon.

  103. Chris Miller

    The value of human (and polar bear) lives

    Can we please move beyond "putting a value on human life is evil and I want nothing to do with it". No-one is suggesting that you should be able to pay £2 million into a special account and this would give you the right to shoot your selected victim in the head.

    In the real world, where we can't afford to do absolutely everything and solve all problems simultaneously, we have to make choices. In order to make rational choices, we have to have a means of comparing the costs and benefits of the many options available to us. To do this, we need to have a common measuring scale that can be applied, which we could call (for the sake of argument) 'money', but if it makes you feel better to think of it as 'spondulicks', that's OK too. It helps that the costs are often measurable in the same terms.

    The arguments for putting a value on polar bears are quite similar, though hugely complicated because measures proposed to 'save' them (reducing CO2 emissions) have many other costs and benefits. So let's consider a slightly simpler case. Mountain gorillas are undoubtedly in danger of extinction. Are we prepared to spend (say) £50 a head to save them? The answer may well be 'yes' (the babies are so cute!!!), but would you be prepared to sacrifice 5p to save a beetle species in the rain forest that hasn't even been identified yet (and probably looks to the layman like just about every other species of black beetle)?

    Or would you prefer the money be spent on:

    a) railings in front of your local school to protect the children

    b) a new neonatal unit for your local hospital

    c) a new hospice for your area

    d) providing clean water to an African village

    Of course, putting a cost and benefit on each of these choices isn't simple and is (almost) always subjective. But if you can come up with a methodology for making these choices that doesn't involve reducing them to a single yardstick, then congratulations, a Nobel prize in Economics awaits!

  104. Azrael
    Paris Hilton

    Put a price on a life

    For all you people saying that you can't put a price on a life... let's do a thought experiment where *you* put a price on not just *a* life but on *your* life.

    Ever flown somewhere in an aeroplane?

    Next time you're going to fly somewhere, find two airline companies that fly to that location. Find out the airline crash statistics, and how likely that a passenger is going to die. (fortunately, it will be very unlikely)

    Calculate the difference between the two. So one is probably a slightly safer bet.

    Now... how much cheaper would the ticket need to be for you to fly on the less safe option? You're putting a price on that risk of dying. If you're willing to fly with an airline that's 1% likely to end up with you dying, and you're doing it to save $100, then you've just put a price of $10, 000 on your life. (obviously, the odds will be much lower)

    If you don't fly, you can do the same. Calculate your odds of dying in a car accident. Calculate how much you earn when you go to work.

    Every day of our life is a series of calculated risks. Usually we go by gut instinct rather than putting numbers on it - but the numbers *are* there. There's nothing wrong with putting a number on things. You might be surprised about what risks you take without realizing, and what risks you are unwilling to take but are quite safe. I know people who are afraid of flying, but will run across a road near a blind rise to save themselves a few minutes walk to the pedestrian crossing.

    So economists have to make these choices, they have to put a value on things (including human life) so that we (or our governments) can make sensible decisions. Maybe if we charged 99% tax rate and better funded the police force we'd have less deaths. But that's probably a monetary cost that's too high to pay for the (relatively small) increase in safety.

    Economists aren't bad when they put a value on lives. They're just doing their job. They're doing what you do every day without knowing it. What's bad is when the economists do these calculations, then it's ignored by the governments.

    Paris (my first time using that icon!) because... well... she's got more money than me. If she donated some of it to medical research she'd save lives. And you can't put a value on lives.

  105. Keith Spencer

    First Capital C**kup!

    To those who post that public transport in this country is crap I have to absolutely agree. I use the old Thameslink line, now called First Capital Connect (FCC; not hard to think up jokes there!) and to say that it is dreadful is something of an understatement. When Nu Labour came to power we were promised a transport plan.... Well on my experience so far what this actually involves is the government signing a waiver for the companies to stuff every single passenger for as much money as possible for the poorest service possible. Screewing up off-peak fares, removing "free" cash machine, at least 20 different train colour schemes and even filthier trains, the removal of free buses from the station to the airport, the introduction of a more "transparent" refund scheme that involves lots of forms and voucher, and so on and so on. Truly shite. So when Broon and co go on about being green and convincing people to get out of their cars I am in the position of thinkign that the car looks much much much better. Having just come back from Switzerland and witnessed their fabulous public transport network (buses that WAIT for trains!) that's far far cheaper (in Switzerland for God's sake!) I have to say that it is absolutely clear that car and fuel tax is about tax and nothing else. There is NO investment in public transport. There is no desire to reduce our energy consumption. Hasn't been any for decades. It's a con. It's a con. It's a con. Maybe I shoudl just go back to bed...

  106. Anonymous Coward

    @ Phil Endecott

    "I don't want to live in a society that works in that way."

    Best top yourself now then mate, because that is EXACTLY the way it works.

    Tell you what - I'l do it for £50 and I'll make sure you can have an open casket too (won't touch the face).


  107. N

    Nothing to do with the environment...

    Its all about how much tax they can screw out of people who continue to live in 'Rip off Britain'

    At some point in the future, all the oil will be used up & thus turned into emissions, all that the so called 'green taxes' do is attempt to delay that point. They wont affect the outcome at all.

    The government actually wants us to sit in our cars burning fuel because in doing so, our vehicles do zero miles per gallon thus maximising their take.

    Thats why our roads are crap & we have things like 'congestion charging' you drive around it burning more fuel or pay to take a short cut.

    This creates the win-win (I hate such crappy phrases but relevant here) for the most useless government this country has ever had the misfortune to run it.

    We, the tax payers and the people who they should be serving, deserve better.

  108. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters


    Gordon Pryra

    //What the author advocates is juut a way of allowing someone with cash, the ability to be as greedy as they like.//

    ---Have you not noticed how society works?

    --- poor peope commit crime - get sent down

    --- rich people commit crime - they send in the lawyers and get off

    //Are you telling me that just because someone can afford the "fiscal value" of their Co2 emissions that they should be allowed to "use up their quota//

    --- does the phrase - Global Carbon Trading Scheme Mean anything to you?


    // like saying it's ok to burn down someone's house so long as you can pay for it afterwards//

    --- this is what the americans have bee doing for years

    --- Marshall plan?

    --- Eastern Europe

    --- Aid for Kosovo

    --- in the long term "iranqistan"

    --- palistine - eu fund PDA Isreal boms it as US Proxy

    @BIKE freaks

    -- so when you take your family of 4 out for the day out or to visti sick relatives ? do you go on yur bike, or do you all ride a bike each or share bikes?

    -- how do you do your weekly shop (one journey) or do you have to go eached day (7x journies?)



    yes the cliamte is changin, reasons various

    -- how come the romans could grow vineyards near newcastle but it is too cold to do likewise today ?


    what happened to the 10year integrated transort plan annoucned by prescott in 1997...... wasnt that canned for beiong to ahrd and costly?

    @Register - if you collected $1 per rant - would that offset your Co2?

  109. Tony Paulazzo

    I wanna save the planet...

    and drive my car. This quote incensed me...


    So when you pay £1.10 per litre at the pump, what you're paying for really costs 33p/l while the bulk of price goes to fund illegal wars, ID cards and Ministers pensions.</quote>

    and this website makes me despair...

    (a global petrol price comparison site, over 5.5 dollars for us brits - highest in the world! going down to 14 cents for Venezuela - America is between 2 dollars to 3.5)...

    so someone's getting fcuked, and I'm not talking about the environment.

    The pirate 'cos our government makes torrenting look positively harmless.

  110. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    @bike haters

    Sure motorbike drivers are noisy, ignorant, rude and self-righteous, but in return for this inconvenience the rest of the country gets free, fresh, warm replacement organs delievered at high-speed all over the country.

    PH because "donating an organ" is a euphemism she'd get.

  111. Andy S

    re: nothing to do with teh environment

    exactly right, its all about gouging money out of people who have no choice but to pay. i feel i shoudl relate one of my favourite quotes from Top Gear here

    "if you earn a living and pay tax, and spend some of what's left on a car, and then pay value added tax on that, and then buy some road fund license tax to put the car on the road, and then pay fuel duty tax on the fuel, and value added tax on that fuel duty tax, you should then pay 25 pounds TAX! to drive into the center of the capitol. "

    People don't drive in to work every day because they enjoy it, they do it because there's no other choice. I'm fairly lucky in that the company i work for supplies a free minibus that goes between the differemt sites and the centre of the nearest town every 15mins. But it still means you have to set off 20mins earlier to make a meeting than if you drove.

  112. Iain Whyte

    It's politics not logic

    The issue for me is that the Government just sees Green as an excuse for tax raising to compensate for its incredible waste of money on half baked schemes in other areas. I would be quite happy to pay more green tax if it was to be spent entirely on green issues.

  113. Geoff Mackenzie

    RE AC and FlatSpot

    AC first: I wouldn't suggest that everyone use bikes for every journey. Until recently I had a small car too*, which was handy for journeys when I had to move a lot of stuff, give 2 or more people a lift, or on days when the weather really stank and public transport wasn't handy. I definitely wouldn't put a small child on the back of a bike (well, maybe a little trailie for their own amusement but you know what I mean, not a real bike on the road). For an adult commuting alone, in half decent to good weather, a bike is great. That's all I'm saying. I can't believe you actually used the phase "think of all the children" though. :) Not sure about your point about NOX, I'm not very up on that and have to admit that I thought burning less than a third of the fuel was a sign of green-ness in a vehicle... Certainly a sign of cheapness, which to be honest I care more about.

    FlatSpot: Nice arrangement with the VPN. Sadly I have no similar arrangement so I have to commute. Given the choice I'd certainly rather work from home 90% of the time and it's by far the greenest option - except maybe from living within walking distance of your place of work, but even there the difference is marginal.

    I don't feel pompous about any magic bullet solution, I just think people who do commute one to a car would be better off on bikes, and the rest of us would be better off in a number of ways if they did so.

    OK, take your point about noisy bikes - some are louder than others, particularly when run hard, and it does seem pointless. I just don't think it's fair to tar modest, polite little bikes like mine with the same brush. High performance bikes like sport bikes tend to be pretty loud, but they're really comparable to sports cars, which are often pretty loud too. Comparing a sport bike to a small hatchback is a little unfair (a bit like if us bikers were saying cars got 6mpg, based on some 200mph 3-litre supercharged monster of a car).

    I repeat from my previous post: I stick to speed limits (including on the motorway, so I'm holier than thou on that one :) ).

    And finally, I resent the implication that I'm in some way posing and trying to look cool here. I say I don't speed, I have a small commuter bike and I stick to the speed limits - please don't try to imply I was talking like a poser.

    Finally, if I had kids, I would spend time with them. What's your obsession with family relationships anyway? Have a neglectful, absentee biker for a parent or something? Don't take this too seriously, it's not meant to be insulting by the way. I'm just curious why this whole 'spend time with your kids' theme keeps coming up. Are bikers notoriously inattentive to their families or something?

    * having a bike and car isn't as un-green as it sounds. It was an old Metro that got about 50-60mpg and of course I only used one of them at a time.

  114. Michael


    No matter how much tax they put on things like tabacco, alcohol, petrol, car tax people are gonig to pay this because at the end of the day people need their cars, public transport sucks and is so much more expensive. Then after a week of working stupid hard and not getting paid that much people want to relax have a smoke goto the pub have a drink at home go for a drive, go on holiday whatever.

    The gov know this so thats why it goes up every year after all they need the extra money for all their expenses..

    Wish I could have a £10000 kitchen on my expenses...

    They shout about it all being about enviroment and saving the world.. But i wonder how much of this so called green tax goes into researching new forms on fuel/transport that will stop the enviromental damage... very very little i think if any at all...

  115. James

    Green Tax

    As many have pointed out, the government are using green issues to raise more tax not using raised tax to sort out green issues.

    If this article was posted in the Sun it would actually cause damage, fortunatly the informed reader base can fob it off as tosh. The Register should however be more responsible with it's opinions, unless of course it's blatantly a piss take.

    On a side note.

    Where is our fantastic integrated public transport system? We are the laughing stock of the EU when it comes to our rail network, I wish we had a true champion for the green cause, with the influence to improve our public transports system. Only then will people get out of their cars.

  116. Baht At


    The £100 insurance for £90 problem really exposes the fallacy of this argument because as sure as hell insurance companies make profits and consequently collectively we must pay £100 to insure the £90 problem the premium being what is necessary to induce companies to offer insurance.

    So while £85 per tonne might be the cost of climate change if we want to solve it a premium may well be payable to induce change.

  117. jonathan spooner

    be fair?

    I think things like road tax should be a percentage alright, a percentage of your income. So if the car you want to drive is set at 5% and you earn 20k per year then your car tax is 1k. If you earn 100k per year then you pay 5k tax. If tax is used to curb peoples activities then this is the only fair way.

  118. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Floored argument

    Flawed argument... for another reason

    Stern said I should pay $85 per tonne tax. That's fine.

    How does that money make it's way to the guy in Bangladesh or gets affected by my CO2 emission, rather than just going into's general taxation slush?

    Also, did you notice that in coming up with $85, Stern valued the cost of a life in Bangladesh as less expensive than a life in, erm, Weymouth.

    $85 is just the right amount to salve our western consciences.

  119. Anonymous Coward


    Your example about being able to put a price on a life when taking a plane (or any other example) is comical. Why?

    1. People don't behave in this way. They don't conciously think to themselves "is this how much my life is worth?". If you put it to someone "Do you think this is how much you think your life is worth?" they would of course say "no" and most would counter you can't put a price on their lives. Economics has a special way of making me laugh.

    2. If you take your plane journey example and compare this with the example of being locked in a room with a barbaric serial killer who likes razor blades 'a lot' how much would you be willing to pay him not to murder you in the most grotesque of fashions? Everything you own (and the promise of even more )? Yes you bet ya, even de-humanising economists would beg to be seen as a human being in such a situation. So if your net economic worth was £10million then the value of your life would be different if you were worth £20million because in each case you'd offer it all. So how then do you calculate the value of your life ? The value of your life depends on how much you have? You see you can't put an economic value on life, attempts theories are pure fanatasy and simply laughable.

    3. In order for something to have economic value it has to be for sale. 99.99999% people would not put their life up for sale (except maybe the terminally ill who want to die).

    So please, stop trying to put a dollar value on a life, you can't. It's just making you look silly. Don't be afraid to let go of the things you thought you knew, the things people told you that give you comfort. It won't have been a waste of time, just a part of learning.

  120. Anonymous Coward


    indeed, if like the MPs i could get my kitchen, Home Cinema etc on "expsenses" I could afford the bigger car with or woth green tax and as an MP you could probably claim the milage back too!


    ps: maybe as a minister i could get some bike mounted outriders instead of the special branch lot in the seprate car? - but they the outriders could ram thier car into the terrorists trying to kidnap me!

  121. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Had the automobile been invented last year, it's a given that we'd have to build completely segregated road networks for them, instead of having them share the same infrastructure as non-motorised transport such as bicycles and pedestrians."

    Bollocks. When the car was invented it shared the roadspace with its predecessors. As would happen at any point of its invention.

    Public transport doesn't support the way we collectively run our lives in this country very well. However, some of that is our own fault, because we choose to run our lives in a way that only personal point-to-point transport can sustain. We, collectively have colluded in the changes over the years that mean that it's near impossible to live near enough to work to walk in. But that's okay because we can't do anything about the demands of our Lords and Masters.

    Some of that is changing. The ubiquity of broadband should start to see a reduction in commuting, and a gradual awakening of employers should start to see a change in business practices that spreads the congestion out, as start and finish times become more flexible.

    But then the profit imperative comes along and spoils everything.

  122. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Making the poor suffer

    All of these taxes (fuel tax, congestion charging) hit the poorest hardest. It is getting to the point where I cannot afford to drive to work and since public transport is pretty much useless for the journey I have to make it is not an option. If the manchester road pricing scheme goes ahead I will no longer be able to afford to get to work as I live in the propsed zone so would start my day in the congestion zone and travel out of it and then have to come back into it to get home. At the same time the bosses at the company I work for who will have to cross manchester will just pay the charge or get the company to pay it for them but it will not really effect them. These taxes are inherently unfair to the poorer people in our society where an increase in cost of fuel or traveling to work through a congestion zone can make it so that there is no point going to work as you are only working to pay to get to work.

  123. Tim Worstal


    "So please, stop trying to put a dollar value on a life, you can't."

    Please, try to understand what the nice people have been trying to explain to you above. This happens all the time. Even Polly Toynbee understands it so it should be within the ken of someone intelligent enought to read this journal. I paraphrase a recent Polly T article.

    The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) looks at the costs of new drugs and treatments and at their effectiveness. Effectiveness is measured by Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALY). If the price is below some £30 k or so per QALY (roughly speaking, you understand) then the new drug or treatment gets approved. By measuring in life years we're able to balance the difference in value between, say, a drug that treats childhood cancer and one that treats a disease of senescence. By adjusting for quality we account for some treatments keeping you alive but in a coma, as against others that provide a good quality of life.

    Now, if that drug or treatment costs above about £60 k per year it is extraordinarily unlikely that it will be approved for use by the NHS. So, although there is a drug that could be used to treat someone, because of the cost, they don't get it and they die.

    Now note, this isn't evil bastard economists doing this (nor is it think tank wonks). This is the medical profession rationing treatment to the population on the basis that the taxes raised from you and me have to be spent in the most cost effective manner.

    And to do that they do, every day, week in and week out, exactly what you say is impossible: they put a value upon human life, a cash value to boot.

    And there's nothing strange or extraordinary about this: the same method is used to decide upon road plans, upon safety improvements on the railways.

  124. Anonymous Coward

    Buses are for the City

    Yeah right!

    I used to live in the country. It was a really nice place to live. We were 'served' by a bus service twice daily. 06:00 and 10:30 in and 07:00 and 11:30 back.

    Naturally everyone had a car and the buses carried maybe ten people a day.

    Brilliant idea came to me - go live in the city where there are buses. So I duly found a house that was served with a bus every 15 mins to exactly where I wanted to go.

    Green thoughts flooded my head and I moved in sold the car and became a green city dweller - with smelly old rubbish rotting outside - but that's a different story.

    First, the buses kept failing to arrive making me a reliable taxi customer and eventually, after 18 months the bus service was 'Rationalised' to one per hour and with a ten mile extension to pretty places I did not wish to go.

    I gave up and returned to the car! Saved a wedge of readies too.

    It's true. If we ever even thought about giving up our cars the government would be bankrupt and pleading for us to think dirty and keep their money flowing.

    I am seriously contemplating a horse. with go-faster stripes and turbo enriched fodder naturally.

  125. Rob Aley
    Thumb Down

    Re: Sigh

    Timothy, dear Timothy.

    It should be "within the ken of someone intelligent enought to" write for "this journal" to understand the difference between

    a) Given a fixed amount of money, maximise the number of lives you can save (as NICE do)


    b) Put a price on life (as your article advocates)

    Compare these two sentences : No amount of money paid now can offset/compensate for a life lost in the future that could have been saved through action. 50p can save a childs life in Africa now. See the difference?

  126. dave lawless

    Narcotics !

    @Tim Worstal

    Hash is a stimulant

    Nicotine is a narcotic

  127. Michael

    We're arguing semantics here

    The main reason we're getting increases (indirectly) in tax is this . Increases in taxation are power . For politicians , power is good . It increases taxes for the same reasons a dog licks it balls .... because it can.(Tax is also the reason they dont drink tea in boston, not cos Nicaragua is closer .)

    The whole argument about cars versus bikes is clear . Bikes beat congestion (Both types). As for carbon neutral bikes , try this ... . (note the production date ...2005.).. I'd like one that runs on chip fat , thank you. If i run out of fuel i could flag down one of those chelsea tractors & do some roadside liposuction. A politician , maybe ...

    Buses are cr@p... theyre more than often empty DURING the working day and tend to squish cyclists .. but then again, so do cars driven by speed demons and dozy numpties.And trains are usually crowded , overpriced and smell funny.

    Oh , and anyone going on about pakistan or africa or bangladesh, etc . By the time global warming happens, there wont be anyone LEFT there. Hopefully i'll have moved to greenland by then...(Oh well .. better start paddling the canoe )

    I AM concerned about global warming , (I live next to a river) but advice for any greens(especially london greens). Accept a command economy or a fascist state, or stop breathing.The continual droning about cycling /buses/cars/congestion is really going nowhere (literally). What's needed is to get rid of the 9 to 5 workweek, ( mandatory shifts for everyone) so road & rail are effectively used. Also, make internet shopping mandatory. Canned or dried foods only, so as to allow staggering of delivery times ( form a queue for the oranges, comrade) . Also , all engines to run on reject stolichnaya and chip fat. ( hmm potential ( Soylent) green recycling opportunity) It also solves the politician problem to the point where we can seriously consider replacement by a computer (a simple one maybe, that says "what?" & " I don't understand " & "where's the tea/coffee?")

    Did i miss anything?

  128. Sandra Greer

    Price Elasticity of Demand - Free Public Transport

    If the powers that be REALLY wanted to get people out of cars, they would set up really good public transport and set its price really low (possibly free). Then they would make it really expensive to drive. Taxes are a perfectly fine way to do that.

    We use taxation here in the US to reduce smoking; it becomes rather expensive for youths to buy cigs, so fewer of them start. Price Elasticity of Demand is the inverse relationship of prices and demand, everything else being equal (or ignored).

    We are just starting to try congestion pricing in New York City, where we have rather good public transportation; of course it could be better, and the price increases once in a while, but electronics have made transfers free. We can buy unlimited weekly and monthly passes, for those of us who are heavy users.

    As a result (in part), the demand for city housing for the middle class has risen, and people are moving back from the suburbs.

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