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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Low key fuel protests

There are many things that can be said about the current round of fuel protests. One of these is that for the last five years the level of taxation on fuel has remained unchanged. Rising prices have been caused by demand and supply issues outside of the control of any one government. And yet the response of the protestors to the high cost of diesel and petrol has been to focus their discontent onto a taxation policy they have been happy to tolerate for half a decade.

Their frustration is understandable but so is the Government policy of keeping taxation at a level, which will discourage the profligate use of scarce resources, something the Americans have not yet come to terms with.

When the pickets gathered outside oil refineries in September 2000 there was a fairly large section of public opinion who sympathised with their cause. That support slowly disappeared as the inconvenience of people having to use public transport rather than their own vehicles started to bite. This time, I sense that most of the public feel that the protestors have missed the point and I believe that there is no appetite for another confrontation on the same scale. That is certainly borne out by the low turn-out for protests today.

On Friday, a convoy of lorries is scheduled to drive along the M4 from Carmarthen to Newport at 20mph. We will have to see if the police take any action for dangerous driving by virtue of going too slow as they have in the past against individual motorists. However, the thought did occur to me that the protestors timing was quite ironic.

On the same day South Wales will be playing host to the GB Rally. Traditionally, this event has been marked by a plethora of speed camera vans along the M4 and record numbers of tickets being issued to competitors and spectators as they travel between venues. Quite what these speed camera vans will make of a convoy of lorries travelling at 20mph has to be seen.
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