How do we get rid of pay-as-you-drive road charging? I realise some may think this an odd question, especially those (usually on the Left) who think blunt green taxes are the future for changing behaviour. However, the reason I ask such an odd question is because I'm actually humouring those that claim such taxes are about making people change their ways rather than being about revenue.
Let's assume, for argument sake, that the high-minded narrative theorising of those in favour of road pricing is an accurate prediction for a moment. Yes, I'm negating the complexity of the world and events, but let's just assume their Durkheimism is correct.
Once everyone has reacted to these taxes, sold the polluting cars for scrap (which is an environmental consequence no one has mentioned incidentally), and changed to nice clean green cars, what happens? How do you remove something that by that time would be so utterly entrenched in the budget as a means of revenue? It would be both fiscally and politically difficult surely?
Now, before someone suggests that the pricing would be graduated based on the type of car will certain cars being free. The number of free users will be massively outweighed by those paying from the outset. The idea that when that balance tips the pricing will not change in order to reflect the need to maintain revenue streams is, frankly, risible.
Essentially, this is the fundamental flaw (and some might call it disingenuous) of the behaviourist argument in favour of road charging. The argument has been framed within the emotive environmental agenda, and in such a way as to imply it will have an end point when people have become greener.
However, simultaneously the proposals are such that when viewed in the medium to long term, it's clear that it will be impossible to ever achieve the supposed end point because the revenue stream the charging will generate will make it impossible to ever scrap.
If you're going to introduce green taxes designed to change behaviour then they must have an exit strategy for when their purpose has been acheived. They are already many schemes, national and local, which are supposedly about changing behaviour but get classified under "income generation" in budgets. Road charging, as it stands, will not be any different.