THE government appears to be turning a deaf ear to the plight of motorists and businesses hard hit by soaring petrol and diesel prices. Given that most of what we pay is tax and duty, it is within the government's ambit to provide some temporary relief while world oil prices are so high.
But as with everything else, the coalition is obsessed with taxation rather than easing the tax burden on those paying it.
Given that its tax take rises in line with the higher prices, there ought to be some recognition that the present level is unsustainable and unaffordable.
Another worrying thing is that diesel, which attracts lower duty rates than petrol is in some cases as expensive as petrol. Why?
Over the past weeks, the average price of both fuels has risen sharply again at the pumps as oil price increases are applied on top of government taxes.
A litre of petrol now costs 162.1 cent (March 2012), up 5.1 cent from last month and 7.2 cent since the start of 2012. Diesel is up by 3.3 cent per litre from February to an average price of 157.7, 4.6 cent higher than it was at the start of the year.
Oil prices continue to climb because of a combination of factors including the ongoing European and global financial uncertainty, the weak Euro and geopolitical factors such as the tensions with Iran over its nuclear program.
'This is obviously out of our control' says Director of Policy Conor Faughnan, 'But it affects us more than it affects many other countries. We are in the Euro but we are also very high per capita oil users in Ireland. Our freight and almost all of our economy is highly dependent on fuel and fuel prices.'
'Ratcheting up taxes on fuels, which has been government policy since October 2008, would be a bad idea for most countries but even more so for us given our dependency,' says the AA'S Conor Faughnan.
'The AA makes its case thinking primarily about the hardship imposed on the consumer and on family budgets. That is extremely serious - we get calls and emails daily from people in near despair because of it. But it is also doing considerable damage to the economy. These are very serious questions that urgently need to be addressed and the Government needs to listen.'
Responding to calls from its Members the AA has secured preferential prices from Topaz via the new AA Fuel Card. This gives the motorist a 2 cent per litre reduction on the posted price in any Topaz garage, saving the average driver €36 annually and saving the highmileage driver much more.
THE AA'S FUEL SAVING TIPS
Buy fuel in units of litres, not euros. This makes it obvious where you get the best value Shop around: don't always use the same garage out of habit Drive smoothly and slowly; a harsh driving style burns more fuel At this time of year the heaters are in constant use. This is hard to avoid but try to take it easy: Air conditioners can add up to 10% to fuel usage.
Service the car if it needs it - it will certainly save you fuel. AA Members can have their car serviced on their own doorstep (or anywhere else) by its mobile Service Team.
A simple tip: check that the tyres are properly inflated. Soft tyres add significantly to fuel consumption.