How the UK is Fortunate to be Protected by having High Road Fuel Taxes

or Analysing the Red Herrings of the Fuel & Road Protests

Fuel Price Herring

The recent fuel protests and road tax protests got me thinking. Everyone in Britain thinks that they are badly off. They think that fuel is REALLY expensive here.

Here’s what the AA have to say on fuel prices across Europe (all per litre)…

France – Petrol – £1.12 equiv

Germany – Petrol – £1.12 equiv

UK (average) – Petrol – £1.12

So the three major economic countries in Europe have exactly the same fuel price! So Britain isn’t especially expensive and the comment on the BBC page here is WHOLLY WRONG! It’s woefully bad reporting.

Oil Prices Medium Term

Now look across the Atlantic to the US, historical home of the motor car, cheap fuel and a piss-poor health care system. Today’s announcement by General Motors to ditch SUVs and especially the Hummer brand is in response to rising oil prices. The graph shows a >500% crude oil price increase since the mid-nineties.

Historically, (and ignoring the fuel price escalator instigated by John Major’s Tory government), the UK has always paid about 50-70% of the pump price as tax.

The US is paying more now, but it is still only ~$4 per gallon i.e. about £0.50 per litre.  Crucially for the US, they only pay 11% of their pump price as tax i.e. the cost and thus the US economy is more closely tied to world oil prices compared to the UK.

So since 2005, US citizens have to pay >100% extra for their petrol, whereas we in the UK have to pay ~40% more. (This is why GM today and Ford last month announced the end of SUV production in the US).

The reason? The government can vary the “take” on fuel duty to suit varying economic conditions – and they’ve been doing so. Recently, several planned tax rises didn’t materialise. Because our tax is so high, the government can do this as any loss in taxes is made up by the wholesale cost increases being applied proportionately through the system.

In other words, our “expensive” tax cushions us from world market fluctuations.

An added benefit of our high taxes is that we have a free National Health Service. Always remember, go sick in the US or break a leg, and if you haven’t got insurance, you can die.

Road Tax Herring

As part of the global battle against global warming, pollution, rising energy costs etc, the government wants people to get and drive more efficient cars. Some people it seems want to just keep on getting bigger cars and spend what they like regardless. The US has already seen the light, as I explained above, where soon there won’t be any gas guzzlers to buy regardless if people actually want one or not! (Another take on the relative expense or affordability of motoring is here in this article).

Personally I can’t see anything wrong. The vehicle type is a horrible thing driven by horrible people. Very soon, the cushioning effect of our high taxes will diminish and the real costs will hit these people. If I could believe any of their weasely words, the truth would be in their actions. But their actions are to drive large fuel-expensive vehicles at illegal speeds…

Pardon? What’s that?

Yes. Wholly illegal speeds. DFT figures for AVERAGE motorway speeds are here in this Times article. The average speed of vehicles on UK motorways is 71mph! This means that most people break the law. Most of the vehicles I see with this behaviour are the big twat vehicles….

So these people can obviously afford the fuel and vehicle costs.

There’s a very simple way to reduce motoring costs – drive slower. Following on from Stokes’ Law, we find that the power to overcome the drag on a speeding car doing 100mph is 800% more than the same car doing 50mph. Very loosely, this means that the fuel consumption is 8 times worse. So a monster like a BMW X5 notionally capable of only a best fuel figure of 30mpg will be lucky to do a third of that when it’s speeding down the motorway, which is the normal way to drive these things apparently.

This is the relevant part of the Wikipedia article quoted:


The power required to overcome the aerodynamic drag is given by:

 P_d = \mathbf{F}_d \cdot \mathbf{v} = {1 \over 2} \rho v^3 A C_d

Note that the power needed to push an object through a fluid increases as the cube of the velocity. A car cruising on a highway at 50 mph (80 km/h) may require only 10 horsepower (7.5 kW) to overcome air drag, but that same car at 100 mph (160 km/h) requires 80 hp (60 kW). With a doubling of speed the drag (force) quadruples per the formula. Exerting four times the force over a fixed distance produces four times as much work. At twice the speed the work (resulting in displacement over a fixed distance) is done twice as fast. Since power is the rate of doing work, four times the work done in half the time requires eight times the power.

It should be emphasized here that the drag equation is an approximation, and does not necessarily give a close approximation in every instance. Thus one should be careful when making assumptions using these equations.

Perfect Info Alert: Since the time of Archimedes, a fluid means either a gas or a liquid – the behaviour of both is mathematically, very similar.

Warning – BMW & Porsche Bullshit Alert.

Since I looked at the DFT figures for the BMW X5, the new (April 2008) figures from the BMW manufacturer’s website are even worse! The best the metal fucker can claim to do is only 23.5mpg. They’re complaining that the “new” EC rules penalise them.

Porsche are even more hypocritically complaining about the London Congestion Charge.

All this actually is, is a lack of planning in these big companies’ boardrooms and design departments. The writing has been on the wall for ages – they’ve just been raking in the quick money in the hope that someone will bale them out when their model ranges dry up. The latest hypocritical advertising from BMW is a case in point – “thank you gravity” – Bollocks. Cringe-worthy crap.

By Strangely

Founding member of the gifted & talented band, "The Crawling Chaos" from the North-East of England.

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