Fuel for thought

If you want to get a heated discussion going around the watercooler anywhere in Europe, then bring up one topic: the rising cost of fuel. For the past few days across Europe, truckers and fishermen have been holding protests against rising world oil prices, demanding government action to hold down prices at the pumps. Yesterday in Britain, hundreds of truck drivers shut down highways in protest against green automobile taxes. Do they have a point? Or do they need to accept that the world is changing and oil is a finite commodity which is only going to get more expensive? If you live in Europe, would you be willing to pay higher taxes to combat climate change? Let us know what you think: would you prefer lower petrol prices, or a cleaner environment? Or can we have both?

34 Responses to “Fuel for thought”

  1. 1 John in Germany
    May 28, 2008 at 14:09

    Hi Ros.
    The high prices of oil have nothing to do with the available, and expected sources,
    but is at the moment due to the, must i say it again; Greedy, don’t care about no other person, speculators, and the Multis.

    Here in Germany we have watched the price of Diesel exceed the price of normal petrol by 1 cent, an unknown situation since i have been living here. At the moment we are by €1.489, and at the moment going down. BBC reported that the Barrel has gone down to i believe 124 dollars, please correct me if i am wrong. Which means in proportion petrol could be sold at @1.30 or lower, but it wont be. We have been paying the same for Normal/Super since the beginning of the year, and even the filling station owners are saying that the normal will go at the end of the year, and super will pick up its old price, normal will be taken of issue with the statement, (no one bought the normal..). and we must all buy the more expensive super.

    The tax reimbursement which was given per KM to work, and back was taken by the government, which loaded the workers travelling by car at a long distance, making a heavy burden to those in work. The motor clubs are hard at work with the Left Party to get this reversed, as the increased cost of fuel, and the lack of a tax rebate has made a large minus for commuting workers.

    E.on have been reported to be wanting to increase the price of domestic gas by 25%, as the gas prices are locked to the oil price. So the greedy speculators are even raising the costs of domestic gas. which will put more families on the bread line.

    Good old Europe, stand on the line and see who puts the red card up first? no one!!. bad luck. The film is running and it ain’t going to get no prize in Cannes. The German government could help by reducing the €0.80 tax on fuel, but they wont
    . The French President had a good Idea, drop the added value tax, but they wont do that either, Laugh now…..It is already calculated in the projected income for the next quarter.

    Get on your bikes and do something for the climate.

    Lets all have a no car day, all over Europe. Once a month?

    John in Germany

  2. 2 steve
    May 28, 2008 at 15:27

    Dont you have incredibly high income tax in europe already? what’s the need for the incredibly high fuel taxes also? Isn’t over half the cost of fuel in europe taxes? What is being done with the money? I thought your socialized healthcare system is pretty much in shambles with everyone complaining about waiting lists. You don’t have that many roads in each particular country, and the railroads were put down a very long time ago…

  3. 3 Pangolin
    May 28, 2008 at 15:33

    While the Eurozone is holding it’s breath until Saudi Arabia relents here in the US we just ignore the rising prices and try to motor on. Well, at least we pretend to ignore the rising prices. Locally, in California regular gasoline has topped $4/galllon and diesel is at $5.

    You folks across the pond should be glad that your high petrol taxes have made public transport systems politically sensible. Here in the US our train systems have never been worse and bus service is frequently non-existent or non-viable for getting people to work. The actual fuel cost of transporting goods is still very small due to the efficiency of large diesel trucks on a weight-per-distance basis. It’s getting to your job so that you can buy things that is unnaffordable.

    Peak Oil theorists say things are going to get worse and never really get better. Betting against them has been a losing proposition lately.

  4. 4 Justin from Iowa
    May 28, 2008 at 15:37

    I know the US has it easy, relatively speaking in gas prices, but gas will hit $4.00 a gal here in iowa within the week I’m sure, and a year ago it was something like.. $2.30? less? This speculation on oil prices is insanity.

  5. 5 Sandra Patricia, Colombia
    May 28, 2008 at 16:20

    Hello, there! 🙂

    In Colombia we’re used to rising prices… Every year there’s an excuse for that. It’s not worth it to have a car anymore, and even other means of transportation are ridiculously expensive! (Petrol companies are laughing at us!)

    The more prices put up, the more I love my bike 😦

  6. 6 Barry8
    May 28, 2008 at 16:39

    Let’s talk about what we need and stop thinking that pricey holdays are all that is good for us. Walk a lot
    more and think about life not just complaining about
    purely material things. Running posh cars etc etc. Life
    could be much better for us all. Particularly the so called ‘managers’of this world; managers who wish to
    put them selves before anybody and anything but themselves. Somee call themselves politicians! They make up fairy storiesbut have no idea how to make them come true!So let potential managers get trained in management. The real way.

  7. 7 Dennis :)
    May 28, 2008 at 16:43

    Hi Ros & the rest of the team!

    Price of gasoline [petrol], in my county of New York is now over $4.00 a gallon…We have LIMITED [Extreme] PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION…

    If you need to go someplace, you will have to drive….

    Plus, add to the mixture of the price of petrol i.e. gas, we are losing couple of bridges for a minimum of TWO YEARS (Before it will be worked on) and about 1 year when it is worked on! Or other words, 3 years before we will have this bridge in my hometown…

    Since my family, have a post office box….We have to go over 40 miles round trip…compare to 6 miles in a round trip…..



  8. 8 Will Rhodes
    May 28, 2008 at 16:52

    If you look at the rise in oil prices there are a few things that are effecting the cost at the pump.

    OPEC is pumping oil like there is no tomorrow but still keeping that at peak long enough to keep production up. The weak dollar(US) isn’t helping any – as a world currency it is way down and exporters are wanting to be paid in other currencies – or so the story goes.

    The speculators on Wall Street and the stock exchange are keeping the price of oil artificially high – as one commentator said, the price is high because of rumours.

    The tax situation is slightly different but still even they are over inflated by governments. If you take the UK emissions test into account car are really clean – a lot cleaner than they used to be – see how an MOT test is done – this can be said for the rest of Europe as well. The ‘Green’ taxing of verticals is not justified.

    When the price of gas goes up the % going to the government gets higher still.

    That means the government AND the oil companies are ripping the consumer off. Look at the profits of the oil companies when they are being charged so much for oil by the suppliers and then look at the tax revenue.

    Global warming has not been proven beyond doubt, the cause being simply fossil fuels. Though they do contribute to overall pollution.

    Governments being government can easily stipulate that car companies must make cars do 75 MPG – ask yourself why they don’t. When you have done that – ask yourself where all the extra revenue goes – it won’t go to reducing your income tax.

  9. 9 Dennis :)
    May 28, 2008 at 17:00

    Why the MPG is not RAISE to a higher limits for example 75….Especially in the United States, the problem starts in Detroit [Michigan]….And goes to the U.S. Capital of Washington, D.C.

    Global Warming is a problem, but not this big of a problem in connection to the price of gas [petrol]….

    Speculation about the rate of a barrel of oil is the problem….few years ago, a barrel was going for a “x” amount of $ and currently, it is going for $ 130.00 [over]……


  10. 10 steve
    May 28, 2008 at 17:33

    The sad thing is that if the government said “we cannot guarantee the safety of oil executives and automobile executives” something would be done about increasing efficiency and lowering fuel prices for fear by executives that people will lynch them if things don’t change.

  11. May 28, 2008 at 17:46

    You can not protest away a monopoly or an oligopoly. You must take measure to have the state take over the product or reduce the dependancy upon the product. Any other approach is only a short term fix.

  12. 12 Nigel Roberts
    May 28, 2008 at 17:47

    Environment first.

    Fuel second.

    For far too many years there has been a lack of will power by governments, auto manufacturers and oil companys…and the motoring public to achieve significant energy efficiencies.

    Energy efficient design would to a degree insulate us somewhat against the cost of fuel in the economic cycle.

    I strong suspect significant alternative technologies over the past 30 years have been hijacked by big oil and big auto for their own vested interests…

    …indeed all the main stake holders continue to move to do too little too late.

    In Australia the effects on us all are the same as in Europe…except to say, that we’ve been living for too long in a fools paradise.

  13. 13 digital philospher,India
    May 28, 2008 at 18:04

    Hi Ros,
    I think We have to accept the fact that prices must be controlled by the market.
    In the long term if we fail to do sooner or later oil companies will collapse.
    In India three largest oil firms face huge liquidity crisis as they fail to recover full value of the products sold.
    [Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) can buy crude oil only till July while Indian Oil can afford imports till September]
    But what is the solution in India or in Europe – hike the price of petrol and diesel, cut import duties on crude oil and lower excise on the two fuels.

    digital philospher,India

  14. 14 Justin from Iowa
    May 28, 2008 at 18:11

    What depresses me about the US is that options are so low for alternatives other than driving a car. Most of it is our own fault, by destroying other forms of insfrastructure and turning to large distrubution centers (mass supermarkets, walmart super stores) rather than small town shops and stores, we’ve forced a driving culture upon ourselves and left ourselves without much in the way of alternatives. In Iowa where I live, most of the state is rural, I have to travel 20 miles to reach a basic supermarket… whereas 10 or 20 years ago alternatives were much closer.

    We’ve allowed ourselves to be pushed into a driving culture, and now it has Americans by the scruff of our necks. People look at America and see freedom and doing what we want, when we are often living trapped within our own circumstance.

  15. 15 steve
    May 28, 2008 at 18:37

    Even if the US got a high speed national rail network, and it were powered by nuclear generated electricity, it would still cost a fortune. Travelling by rail in europe is incredibly expensive. it would cost a lot here too. I know in europe you can get nationwide or europe wide rail passes. I think in Germany a nationwide pass for a year is about 5k euros. That means you could live 200km from work and have a 1 hour commute each way. Thing is, the US is so much larger. All I know is that Amtrak is terrible. Outside of the NE US, it shares tracks with freight, goes at a crawling pace, and is often delayed. I looked at train times from NYC to Montreal, and it takes 13 hours just from NYC. Taking a bus would take half that time.

    I think the US is simply too large, with too many people. Canada may be larger, but most of the population lives within 100 miles of the US border, and barely anyone lives north of certain areas, so they would be more likley to use high speed rail or have less cars, yet they don’t.

  16. 16 Zak
    May 28, 2008 at 19:04

    You in the EU are already paying higher taxes to fund the biofuels program that started disastrously bad by sponsoring new Palm oil production in the Indonesian Rainforest. This call failed to accomplish the original mandates funded by the taxpayers.The biggest fuel crisis you have is reversing that decision and beginning to use recycled oil in the process. Considering that Europe has many times more diesel vehicles than the US, nearly all vehicles in Europe versus 1/10 the vehicles in the US, the biggest issue you have is properly establishing your Biodiesel production.

    Oil need is an illusion, and Europe has the opportunity to escape it, if you eliminate the need for petroleum fuel you can use synthetic oil to lubricate an engine. If all the oil in Europe was recycled you could fuel more than half the vehicles, that means if you grew even as many crops more as America is growing for Ethanol now you could easily supply all the diesel vehicles.

    Bottom line if you got on this track completely as even the current mandates suggest you would drastically reduce the demand for oil in the EU and leave America to find it’s doom with the gas fueled engine. So I really don’t think the EU has nearly as much right to complain. Look at the amount of fuel going into Viet Nam – none. How many other countries have no petroleum fuel cars.

  17. 17 Justin from Iowa
    May 28, 2008 at 20:22

    I realize that work commutes don’t make as much sense in the US, for rail networks, but bi-monthly trips from one geographic area of a state to another (say, drive 10 miles to a rail stop and ride the rail for 70 or 80 miles to a large population center, then back… ) that makes sense to me. In a country with spread out population you can’t expect people to abandon the most useful form of transportation, but offering alternatives which could make a noticeable dent in that transportation nightmare… that would be smart, in my very humble opinion.

  18. 18 Pangolin
    May 28, 2008 at 22:34

    There is this thing called a bicycle. In China, Vietnam and Thailand they ride electric assisted bicycles by the millions. Here in the US people are designing and making ‘longtail bicycles’ that can carry up to 200 lbs of groceries or what have you. (kayak, for reals) There are even super heavy duty mountain bikes that can get you and your groceries home in the snow. (sarcastically called the “Big Dummy,” look it up)

    Get a bicycle that fits and get used to riding it because the day may come when you don’t have much of a choice. SUV’s make great starter boxes for tomatoes and also good homeless shelters but they aren’t much use when gas gets over $8/gallon.

  19. 19 Dennis
    May 28, 2008 at 23:43

    Diesel and gasoline:

    How much of the cost in the European Union e.g. United Kingdom is in the form of taxes for the Government…..

    Madrid, U.S.A.

  20. 20 Will Rhodes
    May 29, 2008 at 00:04


    That is broken down in pence – double it and you will get a good approximation.

  21. 21 Will Rhodes
    May 29, 2008 at 00:09

    Fuel Escalator Forces Prices Up
    This fuel escalator forced prices up from one of the lowest in Europe to now one of the most expensive. When it was first added, fuel prices rose by 3 pence a litre and tax contributed to 72.8% of the total cost. By 1997 the escalator had added 11.1p to the cost of unleaded petrol and was at 75%. It didn’t get any better when the conservatives left office and Gordon Brown took over, as the escalator increased and 3 pence was added per litre. This took tax up to an incredible 81.5% of the total price of fuel.


  22. 22 Dennis
    May 29, 2008 at 00:17

    Thanks Will for the information!

    That is HIGH 😦

    Madrid, United States of America

  23. May 29, 2008 at 02:57

    Whatever oil prices are or do, the facts remain that oil is a finite commodity, its global supply IS diminishing and, as it drops, the various oil cartels will suck the last possible coins out from our pockets. Yes, I vote for a cleaner environment, fewer cars, less petroleum derivatives of all types, i.e., a healthier cleaner world–the world as it was when I was young! Can we have both, oil and a cleaner world? Yes, of course, why not! I lived in it all through my youth. So why not now? Because when I was young the world had FEWER THAN ONE HALF the number of people it has now and fewer than two thirds the number of vehicles. So, what to do? There is only ONE crucial, urgent, long term and unavoidable course, IF mankind is both to survive and remain sane: to manage human birthrates so as to reduce and stabilize the human population at sustainable levels. 6.5 BILLION AND GROWING IS unsustainable, is suicidal, and an abomination we will pay dearly for in a forseeable future! We will not like doing what we need to do; we will like far less the world awaiting us if we don’t! Whatever current global problem or crisis one cares to name–global warming, climate change, ecodegradation, species loss, food crisis, rising prices, social breakdowns, political unrest, etc.–its ONLY VIABLE solution lies in FEWER HUMANS, IN POPULATION REDUCTION TO SUSTAINABLE LEVELS AND BIRTHRATE CONTROLS TO THAT END. Unless we soon implement measures to this end, not simply the quality of life but the survival of civilization as we know it are in imminent danger of collapse. In America we are not yet directly confronted with these realities, as they are in other places, and so we still indulge the unaffordable luxuries of doubt and denial. When REALITY hits it will be too late to set remedies or change course. THE problem is not oil or rising prices. THE problem is too many people… and the time it’ll take to lower our numbers…

  24. 24 Zak
    May 29, 2008 at 04:28

    Consider this: the oil mega-rich Emirate nation of Abu Dhabi is willing to spend 50 billion dollars to build this CO2 free city. Ask why: they simply say that they want to have a plan when oil runs out, that’s right, when oil runs out sometime in the next 50 years at this rate.

    Excuse me while I repeat myself to give you the whole idea: Take a trip to Masdar city? You’ve probably heard of the plans for the CO2 free city but NPR has a really awesome virtual video tour that’s better than the promotional one on the official site of Abu Dhabi. Both of those sites video tours are amazing.

    50 billion is a lot of dough but they’re not hurting, just imagine what would happen if all countries did this. Norway has some fairly similar, very good ideas going, sustainable Hydrogen fuel for instance. My home in N. CA is fast moving toward all alternative fuels and we have a lot of CO2 eating Redwood trees in the middle of our cities like Norway. That’s what it takes alternatives and more trees.

  25. May 29, 2008 at 04:37

    It always makes me cringe when I here all of these big oil representatives on the news outlets saying, “In ANWR there is enough oil to power “X” cars for 60 year. ” Uh yah. then what. 60 years isn’t a full life expectancy by today’s standards. What about my children and their children?

    Ealier I saw these snakes telling everybody that they had big oil stocks in their mutual funds,

  26. 26 Rick
    May 29, 2008 at 06:56

    If it makes us concerve, bring it on. Too many of us just suck it up like there’s no tomorrow. Consumption by the middle class is killing the world and we all act like it’s somebody eles’s problem. Like politicians or oil companies. Its time to take some personal responsibility for the every day decisions we make.

  27. 27 Brett
    May 29, 2008 at 12:47

    @ Rick:
    If it makes us concerve, bring it on. Too many of us just suck it up like there’s no tomorrow. Consumption by the middle class is killing the world and we all act like it’s somebody eles’s problem. Like politicians or oil companies. Its time to take some personal responsibility for the every day decisions we make.

    I’m in the same boat. Bring on the higher prices!
    And yes, I know it will affect almost every facet of my life, I’m preparing for that. Unfortunately, I see that as being one of the only ways to engage in real and drastic change away from happy motoring.

  28. 28 John in Germany
    May 29, 2008 at 13:39

    Hi Steve.
    Slow down a bit friend. Some European countries have the problems noted by you, but others do not. It must be remembered that we have the south-north-to east fall.

    in Germany we still have an excellent , medical system, and a workable social system. We can still get the best medical attention, without waiting to long. This does not apply to most new members of the Union.

    There is a false impression of EUROPE being a land of milk and honey, which is profiled by the over paid parliamentarians in Brussels. It is the hope of all newcomers that they will suck from the honey, they can but they have to suck hard for a long time to achieve the same standard as the paying countries- for example France-Britain-Holland-Germany ECT.

    One of the worst situations for us is the subvention travel. where factories are being closed down in the western areas, and being re-opened in the eastern lands, where attractive tax conditions and cheap labour are a big incentive, a well known handy maker was one of these concerns that closed a factory in Germany ,and moved it into an eastern European land..

    i promissed not to be pessimistic, but i can see no benefit, except for the free movement, and right of abode for all Europeans within the community.
    i wish all European Union Lands luck, but cannot hide the disappointment felt by many, especially those that have lost their livelihoods due to these factory closures, and the anger of those that will loose their jobs when a cheaper land joins. and the subvention devil strikes again.

    It was easier to see Europe as it was before, and i can assure you there are many that wish it was. Alone the cost of the European parliament and its hang onners it massive. The travel costs of the politicians, from home to the sittings, and back home again must be hell high alone, i must try to find out the total cost of the whole system per year. Or maybe not, it could make me angry.

    And just one more thing, the opening of the borders also made it easier for the criminals to move, and they did.

    John in Germany.

  29. 29 David
    May 29, 2008 at 17:45

    I have an answer to the problem.

    If you are poor, half-fill your car with petrol and top up with water.

    If you are rich half-fill the car with petrol and top up with Black Douglas whisky.

    then see what hapens

    How did we get to this mess in the first place? Why are governments not acting? Why have politicians gone on holiday on this? Has this rocketing fuel prices have any thing to do with the wars we have had to have?!

  30. 30 Julie P
    May 29, 2008 at 17:57

    Rising fuel and food prices are, sadly, going to be the norm, at least for a while. This is so reminiscent of the 70’s it’s more than dejvu, it’s a repeat. The oil markets appear to be manipulated by investors and hedge funds in the futures market. Frankly, I am more than shocked and applled by the events of the last few months. I am tired about hearing it’s supply and demand, we’re running out, there are too many people, and we need to change the way we live (alter, not change in my opinion). End the greed.

  31. 31 Steve/Oregon
    May 29, 2008 at 18:05

    It is my opinion that even though gas prices go up everyday it seems people will continue to pay it.
    My solution is to buy a economy chip for my vehicle and buy a stihl and make my own ethanol in my garage out of leftovers. No this wont comepletely offest my cost for fuel much but it all adds up! Now think if all gov. vehicle switched to ecomony chips for there vehicles which in some cases can dbl gas mileage, prices drop….. everyone makes there own ethanol out of left overs and uses wat they make to supplement there fuel…….. prices drop.
    Dems win the presidency and congress and when the senate holds a hearing no one on the council can deny makeing the oil exec’s swear in prices will go down not back to under 3.00/gallon but they will go down do your part make some ethanol at home buy a economy chip and if your are one of the billions of americans that is obese go for a walk.

  32. May 30, 2008 at 05:36

    Oil issue is a man makes matter like selfish, indvidualism and worldwide power control. Some nations think by attacking oil supplies countries they can control their oil wells and force them to produces high supplies for less prices and if they refuses to obeys their laws they have power of goverments change through military power. Even some oil producing countries like in south America & Africa without history of terrorists have been tread hurshly or cut out from oil markets. With these kind of arrogances and forces will you thinks that you get the products with lower prices? These not 16th century where empires can go any where and control resources by force. This 21st msot people educated and every things can be done depolmadly. If not you face the wars in this arrogants ways.

  33. 33 John in Germany
    May 30, 2008 at 08:19

    For those that are interested, the control organ for German Governmental finances, is the Bundesrechnungshof. (loosly translated the countries bill yard) that’s how the computer would do it.) http://www.bundesrechnungshof.de there is an english tab, and a lot of information, one can ask questions as well.

    The financial organ of the EU is to be found at eca.europa.eu, and the german http://www.das-parlament.de, has also a lot of info.

    We all know about the excessive cost to the tax payer due to the EU, an added burden which the founder fathers never dreamt about. Two to one, is the phrase that was used when the DM was thrown out for the Euro. There were many attempts to try and disprove a fact, even today older people are heard to say that is DM10.00, daylight robbery.

    The EU does do good in a lot of areas, but it was also a job provider for a lot of politicians, and hangers on. It was insisted on that translators would be provided for all languages. Although English is mainly used, i believe there was some arguments in the beginning, as the French tried to place French as the Official language. The translation service costs millions. and so on, and so on. ad infinitum.

    Have a nice day.

    John in Germany

  34. 34 Shirley
    May 30, 2008 at 16:34

    Steve, did you see Frontline’s episode about health care in various European and Asian countries? Check it out: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/sickaroundtheworld and http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/sickaroundtheworld/interviews/hawkes.html . Given the choice between health care that is so expensive that it bankrupts the population and millions can’t even afford it and long waits to get in to see a doctor, I would take long waits. At least I would have a chance at regular access to a health care professional.

    One of the reasons that rising fuel prices have not affected Europeans to the extent that it has affected us in the States, by the way, is the fact that most of their fuel price is indeed taxes. Pangolin also has a good point. Were we to better fund our public transport systems and actually use them, we would not be so affected by fuel cost crises. We would also not be pouring so much air pollution into our environment. Traffic congestion in places such as Los Angeles might even be relieved somewhat.

    Justin stated my bottom line: the treatment of materials which are necessary for human existence: food, housing and clothing materials, fuel, etc. as money in terms of financial investment by speculators and investors is practically criminal.

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