5 October 2000
Greenpeace to confront fuel pickets

By Donald MacPhail

ENVIRONMENTAL campaigners have vowed to challenge farmers if they try to hold protests at oil refineries again.

Greenpeace says it will send teams to any picket line to argue the case for maintaining current levels of fuel duty.

Fuel protesters, who almost brought Britain to a standstill in September, have threatened further action is demands for lower fuel tax are not met.

The FWi homepage is marking the countdown to the 60-day deadline.

But Greenpeace says current levels should remain, and calls for the Government to revenue to create a green fuel fund promoting alternative energy.

Stephen Tindale, policy director of Greenpeace UK, laid down the challenge at the groups business conference, attended by Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers.

“The Government has been running away from the real justification for a fuel tax – to stop climate change and improve air quality,” said Mr Tindale.

“Greenpeace is not afraid to make the case for high petrol prices, and we will go out to the fuel protests and put it directly to truckers and farmers if they return to the refineries.”

But Farmers for Action chairman David Handley, a leading figure in the fuel protests, said Greenpeace should concentrate on lobbying the Government.

Mr Handley said he supported alternative energy and increased public transport, but farmers and hauliers needed cheaper fuel now to stay in business.

“Until people like Greenpeace can come up with a solution which will allow us to make a living, what right have they to come down to protests?

“They should stay away.”

Mr Handley said he did not fear trouble as he was certain protesters under his leadership would not become involved in any confrontation with Greenpeace.

A new survey for Greenpeace shows 68% of the British public would be happier paying the current fuel tax if more went to public transport and green fuels.

The same proportion said they would rather pay the same fuel tax with a guaranteed 3p going to the environment.

However, fuel protesters can draw some comfort from the survey, as 82% of those questioned said current fuel duty was too high.