I’m not supporting fuel price campaign (Mar10)

I received a round robin email this week. It was launching a protest campaign about the price of fuel. The allegation was that although the current price of oil is low, the price at the pump is high – hitting 114.9 per litre in some areas. And the worry is that this will soon mount to £1.50 per litre some time soon.

A year ago there was a similar campaign asking people to stop buying fuel on a particular day. This time round the idea is to stop buying fuel from particular companies – BP and Esso – for the rest of this year. The thinking is that if these companies aren’t selling any fuel then they’ll reduce their prices and the other companies will have to follow suit.

But, of course it will only work if they get millions of people to boycott the two companies and the email urges everyone reading it to forward it on to at least 10 others. It’s extraordinary how quickly chain mails like this can whip through the population. Apparently, if each person follows instructions it will take only 6 generations to reach three million others.

The email I was sent had lots of email addresses on it – it hadn’t been Bccced. So I copied all the addresses for my response, as follows:

“I think this is a ridiculous idea and won’t be supporting it! We should all be aiming to reduce our petrol and diesel consumption to reduce carbon emissions. If fuel is cheap, people drive more. For anyone concerned about fuel prices I’d recommend buying a more fuel-efficient car, driving less, shopping on the internet, using the train and taking up cycling and walking. I’ll be doing all those things but also buying my petrol from BP – not Esso because Exxon has a very powerful anti-climate change lobbying campaign. Best wishes and apologies. Julia”

I sent this off with some trepidation. I anticipated quite a hostile response. Actually, it wasn’t too bad – I got three follow up emails. The first asked me what a ‘sustainability consultant’ was. I wasn’t sure of the tone behind the email but recommended that the sender look at my website and have heard nothing more.

The next sender was a bit angry but not about the stance I took. His concern was that his email address had been circulated to zillions of others by me and the person who originally sent the campaign message to me. I thought he had a valid point, so I apologised and promised that if I’m ever foolish enough to send out a mass email again I’ll hide the list of names.

The third and final email I’ve received so far was a bit more critical about my position on fuel charges. Her position was that it was all very well for me but she had special circumstances – a disabled son – that made it a particular hardship for her. And that she needed others to campaign on her behalf. Clearly, I’m sympathetic to her situation and understand that she might need some extra help. But I don’t think that justifies cheap fuel all round.

We have to be able to deal with exceptions if we’re going to make any significant changes to reducing climate change emissions. And we have to accept that not everyone is going to be a winner. So anyone who’s driving around in a gas guzzling car and complaining about fuel charges doesn’t get my sympathy vote. If the prices stay high it might encourage people to change their car or drive less.

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