Why narrowboaters should be allowed red diesel

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Posted Jul 22 2013 by Mark Hughes of the Webalyst

Red diesel is a lower-taxed fuel, that the EU want to revoke from use by boaters in the UK. On my boat I’m living an incredibly low-impact, environmentally-friendly life, and I think it makes sense to keep the red diesel rate for live-aboard boaters because it is very low-impact, helping combat climate change and other environmental problems.

Let me explain what a dramatic impact this lifestyle has had on my energy use.

I generate my own electricity rather than being hooked up to the mains. The diesel engine acts as a combined heat (hot water) and power (batteries & mains electricity) generator, as well as for propulsion of course. This is very efficient use of diesel as an energy source, and so I think merits being encouraged by the lower “red diesel” tax regime. But that’s not the only reason I think we should allow boaters lower tax on diesel, as I’ll explain.

To add to my energy efficiency, I have a solid fuel burner (and all the wood I need grows and is available right by my mooring). I use bottled gas for cooking – which I am told will last about 2 years between bottle changes. Amazing huh!

There is no comparison between this and the 3-bedroom house I’m leaving in terms of energy use.

narrowboat

Mark aboard his boat

Also, even though I am already very energy conscious, living in a house with mains electricity makes it incredibly easy to overlook how much energy even a laptop uses, let alone all those other gadgets and things left on “standby”. I’ve only begun to realise how even my “frugal” use of energy and water in the house is actually profligate, because on the boat I’m using a tiny fraction of these resources.Even though the house is double glazed, having central heating and needing to heat a volume that is about fifty times larger means the energy use is vastly higher in the house than on my boat. Add to that the fact that during winter it makes economic sense for me to collect and burn the local wood supply, rather than create CO2 emissions using bought coal-based fuel.

On the boat I am incredibly energy conscious because every day I see how much time it takes to charge the batteries, and how quickly they discharge if I have the TV on, or more than one light etc. So I have LED lights throughout and am extremely frugal in my energy use.

This extends to having a kettle sat on the solid fuel stove for ready-made hot water, and using it for cooking as well as heat from time to time.

The same goes for water because I have a built-in tank that must be filled up using a hose. Same goes for toilet etc. Everything works in a way that strongly incentivises me to minimise the energy, water and other resources I consume.

I am in a position to be able to afford to live like this even if the tax on red diesel is raised, but a lot of others may not, and some may be forced into conventional housing (or worse) if the cost of their energy rises significantly (more than 50% extra on diesel). I believe we should keep the cost low to help people on low incomes, many of whom live aboard because it offers an affordable alternative to conventional housing.

If you think this is a good idea, please consider signing the petition (below) to keep this low-impact lifestyle at a cost where even people less well off than me can still afford it. It helps everyone!

Thanks for reading

View ePetition here.