The Polluter Overpay Principle

Lawrence Solomon
National Post FP Comment
March 12, 2008

The UK is clobbering well-engineered automobiles in a move to re-engineer society. A Land Rover will soon face a tax of £950 when purchased, and then an additional £455 per year. Saab owners are hit less hard (£425 in year one, then £270) and Audi owners even less (£155 and £155). To escape these taxes, dubbed “showroom taxes” because they tend to hit hardest at the time of purchase), car-buyers need to think very small, such as the VW Polo Bluemotion, a diesel vehicle.

The taxes — announced Wednesday in the government’s budget — are scaled in proportion to the CO2 that these cars emit per kilometer traveled (the Audi emits 160 grams of CO2 per kilometre, vs 190 g for the Saab). In reality, these showroom taxes are more for show — a way to castigate car owners while grabbing some tax along the way. The cars draw the tax regardless of how many kilometres they’re actually driven — that Saab owner who drives his car sparingly will emit far less CO2 than the commuter in the VW. The tax, in effect, is a mean-spirited tax on lifestyle that has no relation to any damage done to the environment, real or imagined.

Carbon taxes on the UK’s auto sector as a whole, moreover, have become unjustifiable, according to the Royal Automobile Club Foundation, which notes that even the Stern Review — a study that many believe exaggerates the risks and costs of global warming — vindicates auto drivers.

‘”There is no environmental case for higher taxes. Based on the Government’s own figures in the Stern Review, the full cost of the greenhouse gases produced by road transport amounts to no more than 14p per litre. Road users are the only energy users paying the full cost of their carbon emissions; unlike rail or air travellers.” The government isn’t pursuing the Polluter Pay Principle, as it is advertising.

Lawrence Solomon is Executive Director of Energy Probe and author of The Deniers (forthcoming).

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This entry was posted in Costs, Benefits and Risks, Energy Probe News. Bookmark the permalink.

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