Petrol Rationing

How to: get votes, help the underprivileged and meet our obligations to the environment

The costs of motor transport are not fair. The extravagant road user is subsidised by the more temperate. There is a solution, which though radical in terms of current thought, is practical, beneficial, and potentially very appealing to the majority of voters.

For the sake of this article we will take.

(These figures are based on the DETR's own figures and are broadly accurate. Many other variables might be considered (Relative costs, weights and consumption of petrol and diesel etc) but for the sake of the principle to be understood, and for a simplified assessment, they serve well.)

We can deduce the average road fuel consumption per person is 1,000 litres, costing £800 of which £600 is duty.

Stay with me here… The current system is far more complicated than what I propose, namely:-

  1. Hike up road fuel costs, for example to £1.00 a litre, of which 80p would be taxes.
  2. Award each person in the country a road fuel tax discount allowance, for example, 20p per litre for 1000 litres per year.
  3. Allow this allowance to be transferable, i.e., a commodity to be traded on an open market.

This would have no effect on the average person (who spends £800 per annum)

On the government (who have a net tax of £600 per annum per average person)

The retailer (who makes £200 per annum per average person)

The absolute magic of this scheme becomes apparent when we begin to consider higher and lower level consumption. This table shows how a fuel allowance could affect different drivers.

Person km driven km/litre* Litres used Current Spend Current Tax New Spend New Tax New net spend New Profit
Billy No Car 0 10 0 £0 £0 £0 £0 -£200 £200
Freda Thrifty 5,000 10 500 £400 £300 £500 £400 £300 £100
Joe Normal 10,000 10 1000 £800 £600 £1,000 £800 £800 £0
Si T. Slicker 20,000 10 2000 £1,600 £1,200 £2,000 £1,600 £1,800 -£200
Mr Mantis 30,000 10 3000 £2,400 £1,800 £3,000 £2,400 £2,800 -£400

* n.b.10 km.p.litre is slightly over 28 miles per gallon.

From looking at the 'New Profit' column we can see that somebody who does not drive has some measure of compensation for the dangers and inconvenience inflicted upon them by car users. We can also see that for a person who uses the car to drive 40 km every working day, no difference will be made to their income.

Although the average consumption per person is 1000 litres, the majority of voters use less than this.

Now, because the 'New Profit' figure represents a disposable allowance, as opposed to cash, it could be sold on the open market. Hauliers and other heavy users would raise Cain (Well they would, wouldn't they), but for them there is silver lining.


Nigel and Jenny live with their two children at no 5 Privet Drive, he has a Mondeo, she a Metro. He drives to work in the city 5 miles away; she works in the local clinic and takes the kids to school. He drives 80 miles to and from and during work, and the Mondeo averages 33 mpg. (12 km/litre). She drives 5 miles a day plus likes to shop on Saturdays, another 5 miles totalling 30, at 48 mpg (17 km/litre). At first they thought that, being a two-car family, disaster was going to hit them when the new petrol allowances were installed. Naturally they thought they would have to cut out all the trips to the seaside, football matches and friends. Including 100 miles of leisure driving per week, Nigel worked out what they spent on fuel, namely £1,122 per year.

"What shall we do?" They both complained.

As it was they found things were not as bad as they expected. Although he spent more, she spent less, and so she was able to give him some of her allowance. They discovered that after she had given him 205 litres worth of allowance she still had £119 worth of allowance between them. And then there were the kids. Though they had wondered what on Earth gave mere children the same rights to access as them, they couldn't imagine, but nevertheless, they had their allowance, all 1000 litres at 20p per litre. They had thought about giving it to their neighbours, Vernon & Petunia, but, being conservatives, decided to sell them through a broker.

"What?" Nigel was aghast when Barclays told him the price of allowances on the market. "Only 10p per litre? That's half face value"

"We are sorry, but everybody seems to be cashing them in sir, you could wait to see what happens but I think the market has found its level."

Nigel kept 500 litres worth of allowance (just in case) and sold anyway. 210 quid. Not bad I suppose.

As it transpired the 'just in case allowance' never got used, but several things happened.

At first they swapped cars, and after two weeks couldn't figure out why they hadn't done it before. Nigel still had the Mondeo whenever he wanted, but what savings! That summer Jenny started to walk to school and work. It was nice 'cos quite a lot of her friends did the same, the kids bloomed, and it wasn't so bad outside. They even cycled and found that it was quicker, though somewhat more hair-raising than the car journey. Along with many parents the cycle to school raised her awareness of the problems, though she was assured that it was nothing as like as bad as it used to be. She still had the car for the awful days, but, well, there weren't any!

As for the recreational use, Nigel started going with his mates to football matches. They discovered that the other pub in the village wasn't as full of fourteen year olds as they'd been led to believe. In an economy drive at work Nigel's trips were confined more locally, usually only one day a week.

After two years the Metro broke, and they never replaced it. The Kids continued to walk to school and get the occasional lift from their Dad or friends when the occasion arose.

Nigel got his Mondeo back. He did his rounds every Thursday, when he didn't have to call at the office, his driving distances were reduced, and, was it his imagination, but were there fewer traffic jams then before? He sometimes got finished for two on a Thursday, and loved nothing more than to go get his Kids on his posing bike.

When reflecting on his conversation with a Road Haulier, about the "prohibitive cost of transport fuel", and "the possibility of relocating to France" and "that closure was imminent", Nigel couldn't remember if it had taken place prior too, or after the introduction of allowances.

Of course, many silver linings have a cloud. Despite reducing the total family mileage to 100 miles per week, and making £210 after the first year, the market value of the allowances plummeted to only 5 p per litre. Worse still, the scheme was so effective, and so many people had started to use cars sensibly, there was the fear of a glut of allowances on the market. The government was under pressure because revenues from fuel taxes had fallen so drastically, so, in the third year, the allowance per person was reduced to 500 litres per person. And do you know what? Carbon Dioxide, Nitrogen Dioxide and Carbon Monoxide levels plummeted. A new vigour raged as more people made their trips their pleasure and exercise. Nigel and Jenny's fuel costs alone dropped from £1,122 to £492, and they still sold the families surplus allowance for £100 After accounting for insurance, garage bills and depreciation they imagined themselves over £1,499 better off a year. The hedgehog made a comeback. Some people started to drive more at 54 miles per hour to save their allowances. The day of the boy racer was over, and the gentleman driver gained a new respect.

Their youngest daughter Hannah never did die two weeks after taking her O levels driving a car full of her friends. Instead of going to the coast that day in the long gone Metro they took the train. And had a great time.

And do you know what else. There was still a glut!

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