Making way for alternative fuels
Recently there was an article in the Press stating that the States would lose £20 million in fuel duty if 100 % of island vehicles stopped running on petrol and diesel fuel as a result of the transition to electric vehicles following the UK's announcement of a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040.
There are two important points to mention, firstly this figure is wrong as it includes all of the vehicles owned in the public sector. Many millions of pounds are spent on fuel duty and maintenance to keep publicly owned vehicles on the road funded by tax payers. Secondly concentrating on the revenue argument alone, there is a danger of missing out on the wider benefits of transitioning to cleaner, alternative fuel vehicles ie. better environment, better health etc.
In Guernsey's case public vehicles includes;
States works vehicle fleet - over 300 vehicles from vans to lorries and plant
The public owned bus fleet - 40 buses
Emergency Services; police,fire,ambulance vehicles
Guernsey Water fleets
Guernsey Electricity fleets (4 all electric vehicles)
Guernsey Post fleets (one third all electric drive)
Guernsey Airport vehicles
Guernsey Harbours vehicles
States departments' vehicles for; Environment, Education, health and social services etc.
In addition, there is the fuel used by the civil service and and claimed as expenses and we also shouldn't forget the third sector. The charitable sector crosses over with the public sector in some cases. For example, St Johns Ambulance rely on government funds which is partly used to cover vehicle running costs.
Once the above is all taken into consideration, we then to start to see the actual loss of revenue but not without also considering the vehicle first registration duty introduced in May 2016 which seemingly ends up in the same pot, otherwise known as the General reserve.
It's important to also to look at the benefits from reducing petrol and diesel consumption. The most glaringly obvious is a reduction in carbon emissions and street level pollution from exhaust systems. Almost every country has signed up to the Paris Cop21 Climate change accords with legally binding targets for reductions in global CO2 emissions. The States have so far paid lip service to this accord. But we're certainly not alone, every Crown island performs below par when it comes to taking measures to reduce our carbon footprint. Is it because we are so small, we think can pass under the radar? Maybe, but is it responsible?
Of course, alternative fuel vehicles are only one part of a solution to reducing emissions but they are an important one and arguably they are far better suited to short journey driving than countries like Norway and Scotland, both taking a leading approach with initiatives to encourage the transition to more environmentally sound vehicles.
Another point omitted altogether from the Press article are the dangers of NOx (nitrogen dioxide) pollution from vehicle exhausts. Fortunately, we don't suffer the high inner city levels of pollution but the effects are well documented and no less serious than the dangers of cigarette smoking in many respects.
Furthermore, there are obvious benefits to quieter running vehicles whether it be for making deliveries or running errands. It's an opportunity to improve the status quo but without enforcing it which might be undesirable especially for the majority who are very much attached to their 'wheels'. There is usually a way to balance the fiscal demands of government, it just takes some lateral or even holistic thinking if that isn't asking too much...