Chancellor misses golden opportunity to push carbon agenda

The Chancellor, George Osborne delivered his Budget Statement to the House declaring that “Britain is growing, creating jobs and paying its way” and stating that “Britain’s manufacturing output has grown more than four-and-a-half times faster than it did in the entire decade before the crisis.”

Posted on 18 March 2015.

A very positive statement which preceded some election winning promises, many designed to win the grey vote, but possibly not the green one!

We had become used to the £1.50 price per litre at the pump –we didn’t like it, but it did make us all more conscious of fuel economy and unnecessary journeys. We turned our home heating down to make the tank full last longer and there was a real business incentive to find energy savings opportunities.

So, with the lowest oil prices and prices at the pump for years, why cancel the fuel duty increase schedule in September? We were all expecting it and, for the good of the environment and for meeting Government carbon emissions targets, shouldn’t he be increasing it while the prices are still low?

True, there have been some gestures towards the environment. The government will be increasing company car tax more slowly on low emission vehicles than previously planned; The West Midlands’ Energy Research Accelerator gets £60m; negotiations on the £1bn Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon are to begin in order to generate green electricity, and there will a new Energy Catapult technology and innovation centre to enable innovators to pursue commercial opportunities for new technology-based products and services that address the needs for sustainable, affordable and secure energy.

However, this seems a small gesture compared to, say, the £100m committed to the development of driverless vehicles, the “single, simple and generous tax allowance to stimulate investment at all stages of the (oil and gas) industry” and a cut in the Petroleum Revenue Tax from 50% to 35% to support continued production in older fields.

We cannot become complacent about energy use, and the wrong message is being sent about our limited natural resources and the destruction caused by carbon emissions by the Chancellor by freezing fuel duty.