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Where’s the transparency in ‘green’ taxes?

Alternate transportationOne thing that has always fascinated me about (say) the British environmentalists is that they would go storming to the government and demand taxes be placed on aeroplanes and cars because they emit carbon dioxide which is contributing to global warming. They demanded nothing in return and so the government is quite naturally, rather happy to acquiesce to taxpayers demands for higher taxes, and generously complied. And when the environmentalists demanded even higher taxes on planes and cars, well what was a government to do? Why comply of course!

The environmentalist cheered! That would stop those nasty people driving high CO2 emitting vehicles! But no one (except Ryan Air CEO, Michael O’Leary – read his latest graceless but somewhat accurate comment here) seemed inclined to stand up to tax disincentive being piled on tax disincentive for public transportation, and even Ryan Air with their protest at the taxes, seemed seemed to stop short of the one thing that puzzled The Dappled Planet:

Why weren’t people pushing the government to plow that money back into finding alternatives to flying and enhancing the public transportation in the UK which was (and still is) creaking very loudly under the strain of so many commuters??

Whether I believe in catastrophic man-made global warming or not, I would be much more supportive and enthusiastic of such taxes if every single pound raised was plowed back into research and development for alternatives to planes and automobiles.

This same green taxing frenzy seemed to also be evident in other parts of the world, in particular Europe, the US and Australia. And now… pandering to those environmentalists is causing the voting masses, which tend to generally be quieter but more numerous than the global warming enthusiasts, to start speaking up as they say, no more! We can’t afford it! The environment may go to pot, but what is the alternative??? Seriously, what is the alternative right now???!!!!

A wave of protests are now sweeping across Europe as truck drivers and fisherman all protest the relentlessly increasing price in fuel, particularly as the taxes on fuel have risen in tandem – or higher. The EU seems to be more focused on using higher taxes on people to get them to ditch their cars rather than trying to find ways to improve what we have, ie a transportation system built before dwindling oil supplies became an issue.

In the UK, people who have owned and loved their car for long periods of time are suddenly being hit with an extra $160/year for owning a vehicle that emits more CO2 then permitted by recently passed EU laws – laws which weren’t even a thought in a politicians head when they bought their cars. Truck drivers opted to choke the streets of London in protest of the highest environmental taxes in the EU.

Similarly in France, Bulgaria, Netherlands, Brussels and Spain, truck drivers and farmers (great users of fuel-powered machines and vehicles) are staging or have staged protests. In Spain and Italy, fishermen are also protesting (but here at The Dappled Planet, we have a separate beef about the EU pandering to the fishermen, so we think the fishermen should just pass on the higher fuel costs in higher prices for fish…).

So what is a government to do? Now the voice of the masses is beginning to get louder than that of the environmentalists, the government has to listen in light of faltering polls (because to a politician, polls are gospel…). So in the UK, Prime Minister Gordon Brown opted to say murmur things along the lines of “I feel your pain” but refuses to repeal the green taxes his constituents asked him to put in place – but offered assistance to prop up the ailing and rapidly depleting North Sea Oil..Hmmm. Not quite what we had in mind… The EU weakly decides to ‘rephrase’ its platform on biofuels…

Maybe if think if the governments developed a conscience instead of constantly finding the next way to grab more money to pay their ever spiraling promises to the public, they could keep these green taxes in effect BUT – and there’s a awfully big ‘but’ – they HAVE to openly and transparently prove to the public that every single green tax dollar/pound/euro is being plowed back into research and public transportation development. Wouldn’t you feel better about paying green taxes if you knew your money was going towards some or all of the following:

Converting gas guzzling cars to clean cars. Research into how we can convert 600 million cars into ‘clean’ vehicles, preferably for a cost of less than $750 for smaller vehicles and $2000 for larger vehicles. Many of us have been ‘forced’ to own ‘fuel guzzling’ cars (either as a legacy or because commercial scale hybrids etc have only appeared in the last couple of years – and commercial scale 4WD/AWD? Still looking for something worth it…) and would like to alter that, but obviously can’t.

Recyling cars. And has anyone even thought about the problems of ridding the word of the current 600 million cars??? Recycling?! Another reason to try and find a way to ‘clean up’ the cars we have rather than expect us all to replace them.

Building efficient and effective public transportation networks. Obviously, Europe has a major head start here, and North America probably needs to heavily focus green tax dollars here – very visibly. From personal experience, people are more likely to use public transportation if you can be fairly certain of a bus or train every 5-10 minutes (or less). But start increasing the wait times… and people drift back to their cars.

High speed trains between cities. It is already quicker to catch a train from London to Brussels and Paris than to fly (when you take into account the whole miserable experience of getting to the airport , checking in etc). Japan has even faster trains. If high speed trains connected most major cities the in country and with other countries, we suspect there would be a huge drop in little air hops. Why would you fly from London to Manchester and go through all the security checks, waiting at the gate, cramped seats and possibly lost luggage for a 45 minute flight when a train can get you there in less than 2.5 hours? Of course, it will help if the service is popular enough that train prices are comparable or cheaper than flying…

Trucks. Even if the trains get improved, something has to take the goods from the train station to the stores… Trucks are usually exempt from many taxes on cars and are in dire need of improved and cleaner technology! Of course, such technology would also apply to buses and vans etc.

Research into alternative energy sources for planes. For all the desire to tax planes in an effort to deter people from flying, there is no alternative to long distance plane flights, particularly ones that go over an ocean. Yet it seems to be the one area where no one is really focusing on how are we going to fuel planes in the future as oil dries up? Look how long it took to get the lumbering Airbus 380 from paper and into the air? 14 years!!!! Recent plane research has focused more on bigger planes and planes that fly quietly at supersonic speeds, not planes that don’t run on oil…

Would you be willing (even if unhappy) to pay ‘green taxes’ if you thought it was being used to provide viable alternatives to the current oil-dependent energy sources for transportation?

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