Public transport groups today urged the federal government and opposition to develop land transport plans that reduce reliance on costly and polluting oil.
“The PM has highlighted the negative impacts of our oil addiction on two consecutive days now,” said Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) President Daniel Bowen. “First he said high oil prices are fuelling inflation and interest rate rises , and then he expressed concern that rising petrol prices are ‘very, very painful’ . It’s time the federal government got behind alternatives, like expanding passenger rail infrastructure.”
Global oil prices have repeatedly broken records in recent days, and many analysts believe it is only a matter of time before the US$100 per barrel barrier is broken. “The strong dollar has cushioned Australians from the full impact of high oil prices, but our oil addiction is still draining household budgets directly at the petrol pump and indirectly through interest rates,” said Mr Bowen.
“Even worse, people who are often most hurt by rising interest rates live in areas with poor public transport, so they are caught in a pincer movement of rising petrol prices and mortgage payments. This is the hidden face of housing affordability,” said Mr Bowen.
“Parties that refuse to invest in expanding public transport are really just crying crocodile tears if they claim to be concerned about first home buyers.”
“While our dollar is strong, there is some insulation from high oil prices. But a weaker dollar would send the cost of oil imports and the pump price through the roof and swamp any misguided attempts to cut fuel tax,” warned Mr Bowen.
Hopes that biofuels will replace conventional oil have also been dashed by a recent report from the OECD and IEA titled “Biofuels: is the cure worse than the disease?”. Warning that “[t]he rush to energy crops threatens to cause food shortages and damage to biodiversity with limited benefits”, the report noted that “a litre of gasoline or diesel conserved … is a full litre of gasoline or diesel saved at a much lower cost to the economy than subsidising inefficient new sources of supply”.
Mr Bowen noted that major cuts to oil consumption and greenhouse emissions could be achieved by promoting walking, cycling, public transport and rail freight. “Not only is public transport much more energy efficient that cars, electrified trains and trams can run on any combination of renewable and conventional electricity. It would be economically irresponsible to not invest in expanding and upgrading the passenger and freight rail networks both within and between our cities,” concluded Mr Bowen.
Together with public transport user groups around Australia, the PTUA recently published ‘Moving Australians Sustainably’, a report which recommends a series of reforms to federal transport policy: www.ptua.org.au/federal