Challenging Fuel Prices

Posted by chdot on May 27, 2008

Today and tomorrow, newspapers, radio and TV will be full of headlines and stories about ‘hardships’ caused by the cost of fuel, the effect on ‘poor’ people of the proposed Vehicle Excise Duty increase, etc.

It seems likely that Labour politicians worried about losing their seats and Conservative politicians keen to achieve power will all be maneuvering to propose ‘popular’ ‘solutions’.

The simple fact is that fuel prices are likely to rise significantly in the coming years, due to increasing world demand. Also, whether or not ‘Peak oil’ has been reached, it will become more difficult (and therefore more expensive) to find and extract future oil – especially the grades that produce transport fuels.

A 1998 Government report Car Dependence in Rural Scotland, (published on Christmas Eve – so perhaps hardly noticed), contained the heading Transport policy : reactions and evaluations. It noted: “Given the central place which cars occupy in the collective consciousness, any policy designed to make driving less convenient or more expensive will be strongly resisted, regardless of whether households would be significantly affected or not.”

Not much has changed in ten years. It’s not clear whether politicians are reluctant to ‘offend’ floating voters or just have equal desires to own and use cars without sufficient thought for the implications or consequences.

In spite of the notion that ‘everyone’ is a ‘motorist’, a significant proportion of Scottish households don’t have ‘access to a car’ – over 30% (report based on 2001 census) – and much higher in some parts of urban areas. Under 17s aren’t allowed to drive and many elderly or infirm people don’t, so car ownership and use is far from universal. There is also a noticeable gender gap. Just look at the people waiting for buses. As well as young and old, there are generally far more women than men. Anyone who advocates a ‘fairer society’ – all political parties these days – should perhaps wonder whether it’s fair to listen to the travellers who make the most noise, or the ones with fewer (or different) choices.

The photos at the top were taken in Muenster (there are similar images from elsewhere). They clearly show the benefits for cyclists and pedestrians of the ‘modal shift’ that governments claim to want. More space to move, cleaner air to breathe, quicker, more reliable, bus services etc.

Report by Professor Gilbert N. Hanson states –

* Bicycle: 72 people are transported on 72 bikes, which requires 90 square meters.
* Car: Based on an average occupancy of 1.2 people per car, 60 cars are needed to transport 72 people, which takes 1,000 square meters.
* Bus: 72 people can be transported on 1 bus, which only requires 30 square meters of space and no permanent parking space, since it can be parked elsewhere.

One Response to “Challenging Fuel Prices”

  1. Paul said

    It’s a bit unfair to compare a bus at maximum capacity with cars at only a fraction of their maximum capacity.

    In reality neither busses or cars typically run at maximum capacity.

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