I analyse the current British petrol crisis
rather differently to the way it is being portayed
in the media.
Yes it's true that many people are concerned about high fuel prices
and there is popular pressure for lower prices.
But this crisis is really about large corporations
trying to make greater profits.
If the oil companies want to they can get their fuel
delivered. They simply have to insist that their drivers deliver it.
The current "blockades" amount to one bunch of lorry drivers
asking another bunch not to work. The tanker drivers unsurprisingly don't
want to antagonise their fellow drivers but the crucial thing is that
they are not being compelled to by their employers.
If they were, the blockaders could not stop them
legally and the police would be empowered to get the oil through.
This is because the oil companies share the objectives of the protestors
and so are happy to make no effort at all to get the fuel out.
If duty on fuel is lower they can reduce their prices. They will make
increased sales and hence greater profits.
The British prime minister Tony Blair has promised to bring this
dispute to an end within 24 hours. We shall see. But it is significant that
he has never spoken to the protestors. On the contrary he is negotiating
with the oil companies. So it is perfectly clear that this dispute,
apparently between hauliers, farmers, ordinary motorists
and the government, is really
a dispute between oil companies and the government.
So how do you feel about being held to ransom by big corporations?
Finally, let's think about the rights and wrongs of this dispute. Should
the duty on fuel be lowered, should petrol be cheaper?
The answer has to be a resounding No! For two reasons.
Firstly, global warming and climate change are already apparent.
They can only get worse. The only question is, have we already
caused catastrophic damage to our ecosystem? So fuel use has to
be rationed, we have to find more efficient ways to transport goods than
by lorry. Public transport has to be improved. But above all, fuel
prices cannot be lowered. In fact they will increase substantially.
Second, our oil resources are strictly limited and no-one is making any
new oil. In a relatively short
space of time they will run out completely. Evidently, as fuel becomes
more scarce its price will increase. You ain't seen nothing yet.
This analysis does not mean that we should be unsympathetic
to the plight of hauliers and farmers (the latter already benefit
from massively subsidised diesel incidentally) it means that we have to
think how to best utilise fuel resources for the good of all of us
and not let the agenda be set by large multinationals.