The Age are to be praised for pointing out what the simplest of statistics should have shown to the as far back as 1981: that the less cheap petrol becomes, the lower a country’s emissions will be. Anybody back during the 1970s energy crisis who looked at the fuel consumption of cars in the US versus Europe ought to have realised that the 50 percent lower fuel consumption of cars in Europe prior to the energy crisis reflected the fact that petrol was and remains less cheap in Europe owing to higher taxes.
The slight fall in Australia’s appalling vehicle emissions in the past few years – whilst not something we should be complacent about given that the majority of Australians should have began a real war to permanently destroy the road lobby a full thirty years ago yet have not begun and indeed vigorously oppose doing so – should make those who do not drive anything but apathetic about making petrol even a little less cheap.
We should campaign indeed to do more than the modest steps of re-indexing petrol excise and abolishing the diesel rebates and concessional tax on “AvGas” (the colloquial name for aviation fuel). That alone would make petrol around $2 per litre – still very cheap. We need to use such increases fuel excise to fund first-rate, integrated public transit in both urban and rural areas and the demolition of roads that have caused increased congestion through demand for road capacity responding in a highly elastic manner to supply: if supply is gradually cut, people will begin to use public transport outside peak hours as they did before wasteful monsters like the Tullamarine Freeway were built.