Richard Schooling's blog: 8 November 2011 - Never mind Mr Osborne's green views
08 November 2011
Richard Schooling is chief executive of Alphabet
Why are we trying so hard to be green? I only ask because the messages coming out of Downing Street these days are pretty mixed.
While fleets are successfully eliminating great swathes of greenhouse gas emissions, the Government's environmental rhetoric has recently gone off at an entirely different tangent.
George Osborne went to his party conference last month and blamed "a decade of environmental laws and regulations" for "piling costs on the energy bills of households and companies." Since then, the Government has lobbed more stones into the greenhouse gas debate by halving solar conversion grants and cementing two new power stations into its latest £1 billion plan to kick start the economy.
After all, it wasn't long ago that Mr Cameron promised voters that this would be the greenest government ever. Westminster has certainly happily stuck to its guns over fuel duty increases and maintaining the almost entirely carbon-driven company car tax regime.
Fleet operators could be forgiven for feeling both miffed and confused by Downing Street's decidedly bipolar attitude to sustainability. Miffed at the lack of recognition of the excellent progress our industry has made on reducing emissions. Confused because we no longer know whether we should treat the CO2-based company car tax system as an unqualified success or, as George Osborne claims, an uncompetitive burden.
I think the Chancellor owes fleets an apology. Not only are they right in the front line of the fight to lessen the UK's dependence on ever-more expensive fossil fuels; but they are also a major contributor of the tax revenues Mr Osborne desperately needs to stop Britain's budget deficit from ballooning further upwards.
In fact, "green" fleets are often the smartest fleets when it comes to cutting operating costs. As I've pointed out in this blog before, average new-company-car CO2 emissions (and therefore fuel consumption) have fallen fast enough over the past five years to counteract all of the inflation-adjusted increase in fuel prices.
In other words, if it hadn't been for concerted change by fleet managers, drivers and car manufacturers in response to environmentally-driven laws and taxation, UK Plc's business fuel bill would be billions of pounds greater today - the equivalent to paying £1.75 per litre for diesel instead of £1.40.
Unfortunately, there are still a lot of businesses that don't understand the link between emissions and operating costs. Although managers gave a high importance rating to environmental issues in Alphabet's recently published 2011 Fleet Report, fewer than half had set green goals for their fleets and many reported that cost concerns prevented them from adopting green strategies.
Since road fuel prices seem set to keep on rising faster than the economy is predicted to grow, it's very important for fleets to maximise their efficiency - and green fleet strategies are critical in this respect.
The Government might have mixed feelings about particular environmental regulations and subsidies but its message to fleet operators should be unambiguous: "Keep up the good work!"
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