The RAC with Fair Fuel Tax have released a report this morning about the effect of high fuel taxes in the UK. Basically, taxes hurt, because they take money which could be used for other things. People have to make choices over how to spend their time and money. This is presented as a shattering observation. Bizarrely, this was most fully reported in the Canberra times.
Motorists in the UK are so desperate to avoid paying for fuel, they have resorted to sleeping in their cars, a report has found. The study, conducted by automotive services company RAC in conjunction with fuel price lobby group FairFuelUK, found that one in 16 (or 6 per cent) regular commuters in the UK had resorted to spending a night in their car to save money on fuel costs.6 per cent you say? Well, if that's slept in their car ever, you can include me... As it is, I've no sympathy for people with 60-mile commutes. If you have to drive that far to work every day, move, or get another job, you stupid, masochistic dick-head. There is nothing short of bereavement or divorce quite as stress-inducing and misery-making as a long-commute. This has long been known.
Further to that, one in 32 motorists (3 per cent) had admitted to camping close to work to avoid the drive home.That's the same number of people who cycle to work, and we get absolutely no help from the Government, so... fuck 'em.
The report also found that 75 per cent of the 9000 motorists surveyed had used their car less in the past year because of rising fuel costs.Yes, that's the point of high fuel taxes, demand slopes downward. This isn't an earth-shattering observation. So people drive less on our congested roads. Without high fuel taxes, no-one would get anywhere. This is a good thing.
The survey also found that in the UK there are 2.9 million “ghost cars” that are used less than once a week.They say that like it's a bad thing. If you want to have a multi-thousand pound piece of depreciating metal you use once a week, that's up to you. How many of these are hobbyists cars, classics or sports cars for use at the weekend? How many of those are owned by people who walk, cycle or use public transport to get to work, yet want to see their old mum at the weekend? This stat tells us nothing.
Quentin Willson, national spokesman for FairFuelUK, said the findings showed that the UK government needed to tackle the cost of fuel by lowering fuel duty. “As a society we've never seen this sort of financial pressure put on personal mobility,” Willson said.It shows no such thing. Why should "society" subsidise a habit as sub-optimal as daily car use? The school run clogs roads, yet because of cars, it's too dangerous to get kids to school any other way. Kids remain molly-coddled for longer being driven to work by anxious parents. Parents remain taxi-services until the 17th birthday, and kids don't have the independence that Dutch children do of getting to the school or friends themselves.
Cars make us fat, miserable. Cars lead to soulless communities without local amenities. Cars kill the local pub. There is almost no social problem to which widespread sole-use car infrastructure has not contributed. Motorists should pay their way.
The fuel duty raised by the government amounted to £26.8 billion ($41b) in the past financial year, down on the £27.2 raised in 2010/11. The drop, said RAC technical director David Bizley, showed just how much less people were willing to spend on fuel.Good. Motorists ARE paying their way. And in doing so, people are finding other ways to get about or are taking fewer journeys. This is a good thing. People deciding to walk to the local shop rather than drive to Tesco's makes the local environment better.
"People are also telling us that they are facing tough choices about their careers with some now weighing up whether it is actually affordable to commute to work,” Bizley said.That's economics: the study of the use of scarce resources, like road-space at 8-30 am. I've always moved to be close to work, because commuting long distances is for fucking idiots.
“And we had a significant number of pensioners telling us that with a fixed income there was nothing they can do but simply cut out social and non-essential trips altogether and even stop doing voluntary work.”Of course, without the universal, sole-use car-infrastructure, we'd know our neighbors local amenities would be within walking distance, and the loss of the ability to drive (which happens to all pensioners as they age) wouldn't be the isolating disaster it is now. All this last paragraph shows is how dependent we are as a society on the car. This is something high fuel taxes are meant to address.
If Quentin Wilson gets his way, journey times will increase, daily gridlock will be inevitable, and he'll be banging on about the need to build more roads. More roads, more demand and greater congestion at the choke-points (mainly near destinations) lead to greater congestion.
No. We've passed 'peak car'. Society is moving on from the 70-year experiment of organising itself around a single means of transport. Young people are driving less. Company cars are being issued less. Motoring enthusiasts will wail and scream. A few chavs will continue to define themselves by the car they can afford. The rest of us will see the private motor car for what it is: a useful, but increasingly anachronistic tool for getting about, one of many, each one appropriate for different journeys.
This sort of report is the last great wail of a still-healthy industry which knows it's nearly finished. The great car economy is coming to an end. My guess is the collapse is nigh, and will be occasioned by driverless cars. Once cars drive themselves, I suspect the incentive to own them will disappear. Fleets of autonomous taxis will circulate, to be summoned by mobile phone in a couple of minutes. You could specify the nearest, or if you needed a large vehicle to cope with objects and pay appropriately. As cars are currently in use less than 10% of the time, this would represent a far more efficient use of resources. Algorithms could ensure maximum occupancy, reducing bills for those willing to share. Vehicles, freed from the needs of human reaction time, could communicate allowing bumper-to-bumper travel on motorways, increasing capacity and reducing fuel use. Junctions will be safer, as the risk of motorists not seeing each other during saccades is eliminated. Cars, communicating with each other would be able to move into smaller gaps in the traffic, increasing capacity. Stop-start would be eliminated.
Country pubs will face a surge in business as driverless cars (with wipe-clean seats, probably) will pour you home, full of beer with no need to organize a dedicated driver.
It's not just people: Reliable point to point courier services could be set up, facilitating a further refinement of just-in-time production. Deliveries, freed from the needs of people's working capacity and the tachymetre could be arranged around the clock, at your convenience. And all this cheaper than the depreciation and fuel we waste now. This extra efficiency of use in transport infrastructure is where the next wave of economic growth is going to come from.
Soon we'll be able to sleep in our cars while they're moving. And you thought I was going to rant about bicycles, didn't you?