Inflation is up this month, pushed in part by higher pump prices. No surprise there. This is a simple economic truth - rising fuel prices means that everything becomes more expensive and that, in turn, racks up inflation. This financial truism isn't going to go away and we'll see more increases in the cost of goods and services in 2013. Nothing is more certain. And if you asked even the thickest financial duffer if the government should raise fuel duty by 3p in January, they'd say that would be a very daft thing indeed. Even the French, who tax everything that moves, have seen the sense of reducing fuel duty to help stimulate their crashing economy. But this week our Treasury says they've done enough and that 'the needs of motorists must be balanced against deficit reduction'. Who are these 'motorists', they talk of? The fact Treasury mandarins still use that outdated word betrays a real ignorance and lack of understanding. We're not talking about blokes in rally jackets and driving gloves. High fuel costs touch everyone in society and make everything we do or buy more expensive.
Raising duty in January would be an act of utter insanity and I can't believe the government would even consider it for a nanosecond.
But there's another issue that nobody talks about and that's the social damage of high fuel taxes.
The rising cost of personal mobility is changing our behaviour. Every week at FairFuel we hear hear-rending stories from people who have to give up their jobs because they can't afford to commute, who can't afford to go to interviews, go on holiday, take the kids to sports in the evening or visit friends or relatives. The sense of infinite possibility, of travelling to other places, to see other things and other people, has been replaced by a grim ceiling of reduced or defeated mobility. As a society many of us can't afford to go out now. And that's a very serious behavioural change. All free societies are underpinned by personal mobility. Being able to move freely about the country gives us hope optimism and opportunity. Take away the promise of affordable personal mobility and you ruin most people's dreams. Its as simple as that.
So raising fuel duty won't just cause inflation and a higher cost of living, it will emasculate our society, reduce our ability to be positive and optimistic and close off whole communities. The question the government should now be asking is not how much they should raise fuel duty, but how much they should lower it. Any other course of action will be a short-cut to social depression.