Saturday, 29 January 2011

This couldn't have come at a worse time.

I'll let you in to a little secret. I don't like petrol and diesel. It is dirty, dangerous, expensive and props up some pretty horrible regimes. It is also finite, the world economy is hitched to a resource which has a limited life. To be so dependent on one commodity is madness.

So when I see this, it gives me cause for hope:

British scientists 'invent artificial petrol' that could cost just 90p per GALLON (and there's no carbon).

Great stuff. Nice to see we're still good at something in this country. It is possible that this could have a groundshaking effect on our way of life.

Artificial petrol that costs 19p per litre could be on forecourts in as little as three years.

British scientists are refining the recipe for a hydrogen-based fuel that will run in existing cars and engines at the fraction of the cost of conventional petrol.

With hydrogen at its heart rather than carbon, it will not produce any harmful emissions when burnt, making it better for the environment, as well as easier on the wallet.

The first road tests are due next year and, if all goes well, the cut-price ‘petrol’ could be on sale in three to five years.

It really would be fantastic news for most people. The benefits to the individual's pocket are obvious, for industry, the reduction in costs is just as beneficial. It will bring prices down at the point of delivery of raw materials, it will do the same for transporting the finished goods from factory to the marketplace. It will reduce prices at the marketplace, but will allow an increase in profit margin once those savings have been factored in. Lower petrol prices are good news for everyone, except the petrol producers. That is another benefit, the production of a viable synthetic alternative to oil based fuels will break the chokehold that OPEC has on the world.

Even the greens will be happy.

Or will they?

For true environmentalists this has surely got to be a bit of welcome news. For the normal member of the public who is a Friends of the Earth member, for example, they will no doubt be delighted at the reduction of carbon emissions. I don't buy into the whole AGW theory, but many do, and if this satisfies those people, then it satisfies me.

But for the big ecoloons, the ones who lobby governments and influence policy, this is very bad news as the public are about to learn the truth.

The reason petrol and diesel is so expensive in the UK at the moment is not because of the base cost per litre, but because of the tax, and the tax on that tax, that is imposed by the government. We are told that one of the main reasons for this tax is because of the damage to the environment which using petrol and diesel causes.

Quite how handing large amounts of un-ringfenced cash to a wasteful, inefficient and duplicitous State apparatus is supposed to save polar bears has never been made entirely clear. One thing that will become clear is this, once (if) the use of this fuel takes off, the government will have no option but to tax it to the same eye-watering levels as they do now.

Then the gig will be up, the public will realise that they've been played and that the ecological reasoning behind the taxation on fuel has been an excuse, and the government (of whatever colour when this stuff hits the forecourt) will blow their green credentials out of the water as they continue to harvest huge amounts of unjustified cash from the alternative to petrol that we've all been told needs to come. Meanwhile, the ecoloons will spin against and defame the new fuel, dreaming up reasons as to why it is just as evil as what went before, lest the government cut their funding. They will continue to demand the government hands over wads of our cash so they can then lobby that same government.

Oh, it may drop the price by 15p or so a litre, but more importantly than that, it will help turn the spotlight on the people who view us as revenue cows ripe for the milking.


Will said...

Excellent post but I'm just wondering whether this development will be allowed any further. There are special interests on both sides benefiting from the status quo - the oil lobby and the Eco lobby. Will this go the way of electric cigarettes opposed by both tobacco and pharmaceuticals? Plus as you say the state will struggle to extort It's fix of lifeblood from a fuel that doesn't fit the current justifications.
I watched a James May documentary about wave power and in the 70s some Scottish chap developed an excellent system but it died a death when investors pulled out following a government report that dropped a zero from efficiency measurements. A mistake? Or was northsea gas and coal too powerful?

Will said...

The historical origins of diesel illustrate just this sort of market rigging. Mr diesel originally intended his engine to run on non fossil fuels - his first deminstrator ran on peanut oil. This seemed to threaten the petrochremical industry, upon which at the time entire empires rested, and so diesel development mysteriouslt swung toward petroleum diesel.

Jack said...

The government must have it's tax one way or the other. If we all stopped using the stuff it would only go on VAT or Paye.
You are looking at the problem from the wrong end!

Trooper Thompson said...

I read the same article with the same spirit of optimism, but the threats to such a development are indeed real. If you dig back into economic history, you find the same game, but a little less complicated, and that game is to secure, via the state's coercive power, monopolies of production, importation or exportation. The benefits from economic liberty have been so often sacrificed to the particular interests of individuals and groups of individuals, who can thereby enrich themselves at the expense of the rest of us.

SaltedSlug said...

I will just step in here to mention that we still haven't got a particular efficient way of producing hydrogen (except with the use of hydrocarbons, that is)so we're not home dry yet.

And on the subject of suppression by big Oil; I don't buy it. Environmentalism has far too much political traction these days and I reckon it would be far more likely that they (oil companies) got on top of hydrogen production in what ever form that takes. There's piss-all profit in forecourt petrol anyway.