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December 11, 2018

Governments conundrum with fuel tax hikes and climate change – academic

Persuading consumers of the need to remain vigilant when it comes to global warming issues continues to form the backdrop to new mobility solutions such as electric vehicles, according to one UK energy academic.

By Rhodri Morgan

Persuading consumers of the need to remain vigilant when it comes to global warming issues continues to form the backdrop to new mobility solutions such as electric vehicles, according to one UK energy academic.

Addressing delegates at the recent Battery & Energy Storage Conference in the University of Warwick in the UK Midlands, Recycling Lithium Ion Batteries (ReLib), Faraday Institution, project leader, Tony Hartwell, noted the challenge confronting governments meeting climate change targets.

Nowhere has that challenge looked more stark than in France in recent weeks, where government attempts to raise energy prices in order to discourage fossil fuel use, has met with an enraged reaction from the gilets jaunes or yellow jackets movement.

This has culminated in widespread violence in Paris and major French cities for the past four Saturdays as protestors take to the street, leading to the government cancelling the fuel price rises and President Emmanuel Macron addressing the nation last night (10 December) on television in a bid to calm simmering tensions.

Across the English Channel, the UK government has equally set very ambitious energy targets, culminating in the removal of conventional internal combustion engines by 2040, although it has so far resisted imposing swingeing tax hikes.

“We had a fuel price escalator in the UK, but the government has not applied [it] for the last few budgets,” ReLib project leader Tony Hartwell told just-auto on the sidelines of the University of Warwick battery conference. “How do we get the public to buy into issues of climate change and accept there may need to [be] some change in behaviour in terms of the way we use vehicles?

“I don’t think it will be a pure transition from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles. One of the Macron supporters said what they did not do was [say] it was fine to increase fuel prices, but [they] should have found some way of compensating people who were hardest hit.

“The UK government signed up to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, [but] the transport sector has not gone down at all. The government set a target to eliminate internal combustion engines by 2040 if the UK [is to] meet its legislative commitments.”

Part of the anger emanating from France lies in a significant proportion of the population living outside major cities and in predominately rural areas where public transport is sketchy at best.

Reliance on personal cars is therefore high, but after an 18-month period of relative industrial calm in France, the fuel price hikes have triggered a massive backlash culminating in a tax climbdown by Paris.

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