Costly Fuel: Born to Be Mild Meets Queasy Rider

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 6/06/2008 01:34:00 AM
The tagline for the now-legendary 1969 movie Easy Rider goes, "A man went looking in search of America / And couldn't find it anywhere." In 2008, what we seem to have in the US and the UK is "A man went looking in search for affordable petrol / And couldn't find it anywhere." My memory of Easy Rider was jogged by two Internet video clips which should be of interest in this fuel-starved age. Heck, if things get any worse, I may even be forced to reference Mad Max: a post-apocalyptic vision of those surviving a nuclear holocaust fighting for the precious last few drops of oil.

First up is this offering from the Times of London. On Thursday, a bunch of motorbike riders jammed the highway leading into Manchester in protest of high oil prices. Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper they ain't. (The Beeb also has footage of this pseudo-hooliganism.) With a gallon of the stuff in double digit figures in US dollar terms, even the nominally more fuel-efficient cyclists have had enough. Oddly enough, other motorists whose progress was impeded by the cyclists voiced their approval. Given that about two-thirds of fuel costs go to the exchequer in the form of either gasoline taxes or VAT, the political angle is not one that can be taken lightly. This is the second mass action to hit in the UK over fuel. A few days ago, truckers jammed central London. In a short while, there may be an even bigger action:

Hundreds of bikers were cheered on by drivers as they brought roads to a standstill in the North West today in protest against the soaring cost of fuel. More than 500 motorbike riders revved off in convoy from a service station outside Manchester at 8am and staged a “go-slow” demonstration against escalating prices at the petrol pump. Onlookers – and even those caught in the disruption – applauded in support as they sat in the major tailbacks on the M62 and M60 around Greater Manchester caused by the protest.

The Highways Agency warned motorists to find alternative routes but most did not seem too put out by the added journey time and seemed to be enjoying the spectacle. Roads into the city were severely jammed as a series of rolling road blocks put in place by the Highways Agency and aimed at curtailing the protest served only to lengthen the delays. One organiser said onlookers were getting out of their cars to wave and take pictures of the bikers. “They’ve embraced this traffic jam today, that’s what we wanted,” he said.

The bikers are heading for Salford Quays. Michael Clearly, 56, a Salford garage owner, said: “I think it’s brilliant. It’s a pity they’re not blocking off Downing Street and London too.” The demonstration was the latest in a string of fuel price protests across the country as Labour backbenchers called on Gordon Brown to scrap plans for a 2p increase in fuel duty this autumn.

One of the organisers, a 24-year-old known only as 'Maverick' said: "Too many people are happy just to sit watching the news and to accept the fact that fuel prices and taxes are going up." With average prices for a litre of unleaded petrol and diesel now about 114p and 126p respectively motorbike clubs in the north arranged the protest via the internet and word of mouth. "We've decided that we can make a change and that we're going to do something about it”, 'Maverick' told the Manchester Evening News, “We're going to be that voice that stands up and fights back. We'll make a difference."

The latest figures from the RAC indicate that 67.2 per cent of every litre of petrol consists of tax and VAT. A national fuel protest is planned for June 22 when vehicles of all kinds will take to roads across the country for a “peaceful driving protest” organised via the social networking website Facebook.

The second video is on the silly side but is informative nonetheless. Here, a Georgian traffic officer laments the growing number of times he needs to provide a gallon or two to stranded motorists on Georgia's highways as they overestimate their ability to get from point A to point B by running their cars on fuel vapours, it seems. Aside from creating obvious traffic hazards, it sticks the government with a tab for injudicious parsimony.

Me? I'll take the train, thank you very much. Never before would I have thought that the internal combustion vehicle in its current form would be subject to extinction, but the signs of the end are all over the place as motoring as we know it becomes increasingly uneconomic. Next personal transportation technology, please.