Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from November, 2011

Do We Really Need Environmental NGOs?

So farewell then Environmental Protection UK (EPUK) . The UK’s oldest environmental NGO (Non Governmental Organisation), known for most of its life as the National Society for Clean Air, last week announced that it was shutting up shop as a funded and staffed organisation. If it continues it will do so on a purely voluntary basis. EPUK is not the first NGO that's run into problems in the current harsh financial climate, and it won't be the last. Running an NGO has always been something of a wing and a prayer activity, and establishing cash reserves when your focus is delivering on your charitable objectives is extremely difficult. People donating money want it to be spent on delivery, not stashed away in a bank account. Consequently many NGOs run with reserves that cover only a few months of operation and when individual giving and Government grants dry up (as they have done) they can quickly get into trouble. Larger NGOs have been cutting back, and many smaller ones are goin

MPs Blast Government Over Air Pollution Failures

Parliamentary Select Committees are rarely kind to Governments. With a remit to scrutinise the Government's record they normally pick policy areas where heals are being dragged rather than shining examples of success. But even against this background accusing the Government of 'putting the health of the nation at risk' is quite strong stuff. This statement is contained in a new report from the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), 'Air Quality: A Follow Up Report'. The document is a successor to the EAC's 2010 ' Air Quality ' report, a wide ranging examination of the previous Government's record on air quality. The new report is shorter and more focused, examining what's changed since the previous report was published and making suggestions for key policy changes. As with any select committee report the Committee invited submissions of evidence from organisations and individuals, in his case attracting 26 written submissions. They also heard in

The Curious Case of the Vanishing Car Taxes

The recent Road Ahead Group report on reform of vehicle taxation publicised one of the unintended consequences of UK and European 'green' vehicle legislation – cleaner vehicles could hugely reduce the Government’s income from vehicle taxes. European legislation has now set a road map for the average CO2 emissions (and hence fuel economy) from new cars. The Government is also strongly encouraging alternative fuels such as battery electric vehicles. As a result cars are becoming far more fuel efficient, and fuel sales are now starting to fall. This process is set to continue for the foreseeable future. Making a few assumptions, the Treasury’s own figures suggest that fuel tax receipts will fall from 1.8% of GDP in 2010 to 1.0% by 2030, and vehicle excise duty receipts will fall from 0.4% to 0.1% of GDP over the same period. And that's assuming modest increases in the mileage driven. Of course falling tax receipts may not be the only consequence of more efficient cars.

A Road Ahead to Greener Driving?

A new report from the Road Ahead Gro up (published by the RAC Foundation ) makes some intriguing suggestions for reform of motoring taxation via an alternative model for road pricing. The gold standard for a reform of motoring taxation would be a full national road pricing scheme. This would replace some or all of the current motoring taxes with a variable charge per mile driven. Using busy roads during peak times would incur a hefty charge, whilst driving on quiet roads away from peak times would cost very little. Whilst this system is technically feasible it has significant downsides. It would be costly, bureaucratic and mean tracking of vehicles and their drivers on a scale that would make many fear 'Big Brother' style state intrusion intotheir lives. But above all full road pricing is considered by many to be politically unacceptable, and liable to see any party who implemented it rejected at the ballot box. The Road Ahead Group have proposed a half-way house to r

Putting a Spark in the Electric Vehicles Market

Take up for electric car grants fell sharply in the third quarter of 2011 , with only 106 applications for the scheme. The plug-in car grant was launched with great fanfare at the start of 2011 and 465 grants were awarded in its first three months of operation. In the second quarter this dropped to 215, before falling again in the latest quarter. £43 million has been allocated by the Department for Transport for the first round of the scheme, which runs until the end of March 2012. The maximum grant is £5,000, or 25% of the vehicle’s cost, but at the current rate of uptake there will be a very large underspend come March. The finger of blame for the lack of interest in the scheme has been pointed at the poor choice of qualifying vehicles currently available. The figures suggest that a number of early adopters were waiting for a grant to get to get their hands on a new vehicle, however with the needs of this group met electric cars are struggling to find buyers. The market may

Sunset for Solar Panel Subsidies

Subsidies for solar photovoltaic panels are set to be slashed after the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) launched a consultation on halving the main ‘generation tariff’ available through the popular Feed in Tariffs (FiTs) scheme. The proposed cut will apply to new installations only: individuals and businesses who are already receiving the subsidy will continue to get the full rate. The Government’s reasoning for the proposed cut is a fall in the cost of the solar panels themselves. Whilst this is true, it is largely the result of a glut in the supply of solar panels which would be expected to reverse as the manufactures scale back production in response - the actual costs of producing them is little changed. Behind the scenes though the cuts reflect increasing nervousness by the Government around the impact of ‘green’ commitments on our fuel bills. The cuts may bring to an end a boom in solar installations where solar photovoltaic panels became the best investme