Monday, March 05, 2007

Taxing pollution

As far as I recall, all three main parties have made noises about taxing pollution/emissions etc - and road pricing comes into this as well - both as a means of encouraging cutting emissions as well as a revenue generator.
But it can't be both. New Labour, the Lib Dems and Conservatives all say they'll fund other tax cuts with increased taxation on environmentally unsound practices. If the intention is to disincentivise something which pollutes, then when that disincentive kicks in, your budget will have a hole in it. That or the well off continue to do whatever this hypothetical activity is while everyone else has no choice in the matter, which is hardly a traditional Labour or Liberal policy.
Road pricing has flaws in exactly the same way. So much money is to be made out of this and so much made from duty on fuel and other taxes relating to car ownership, it's not in the government's interests to make people take to the buses or trains, particularly as any revenue generated there goes straight to shareholders, not the public purse. And in turn, it allows bus and train companies to create the illusion of running a desirable service when they are packed, forcing the price up artificially with no responsibility to upgrade anything, as road and rail repairs come under Whitehall's remit.

This has obviously been very carefully thought out, but not for the soundbite and headline reasons. It's a cunning way of winning votes by appearing very concerned about the planet rather than a cynical grab at new revenue streams.

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