Blighty, one of the columnists at The Economist, has short shrift for those clamouring for the Chancellor to cut the price of fuel: "It’s unlikely that will happen. Fuel duty is a very good way for the government to make money — it accounted for 5% of the government’s total tax take in 2009/10. And the chancellor has already put off one set of price rises: in March, he cut duty by a penny a litre, and delayed the next inflation-linked rise until January."
Blighty points out that higher fuel costs discourages driving, an environmental boon.
"Amid the hoo-ha about petrol, price and how hard up everyone is right now, it’s easy to miss the benefits of the tax: as an environmental tax, it works impressively well. The behaviour of car drivers has changed a lot in the past few years, and that has much to do with the high prices and other government incentives."
Blighty suggests that "people should be more discerning about which journeys it’s really necessary to do by car and whether there are other alternatives."
Touching on ‘peak car’, he also says "people are changing how they drive, as well as what they drive. Every year since 2007, people have been driving less by car and van."
And he decries the use of private cars for pitifully short journeys.
"I don’t deny that many people have to use a car a lot of the time — to get to work, to ferry their children around, to do the shopping or visit family. But 23% of car trips are less than two miles, so some of those could surely be avoided."
Excess car use leads to spare tyres: "Britons are also fatter now than they were a decade ago. There is a correlation."
Blighty ends with the fact – an uncomfortable truth for many – that petrol prices will remain high.
"If Mr Osborne did delay January’s planned price rise of 3p a litre, fuel will still be very pricey. Oil prices and petrol taxes are likely to stay high for the foreseeable future and not much can be done about that. So if people want to pay less for fuel, something else will have to change."
Hmm, short journeys made by means other than private car; transport that doesn’t make you fat; transport that isn’t impacted by high fuel costs. No, no, we can’t think of anything…