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article imageOp-Ed: Greece refuses to reduce fuel tax, warns of health risks of wood

By Katerina Nikolas     Jan 7, 2013 in Environment
Living under a cloud of smog and bombarded by government health warnings of the health risks of resorting to burning wood for warmth, Greek citizens are assured by the finance minister that there will be no relief from the taxes imposed on heating oil.
Of the many asinine ideas that the Greek government has imposed on its citizens none is more self defeatingly futile than the exorbitant tax levy on central heating oil. Equalizing the price of heating oil with diesel resulted in taxes comprising 42 percent of the price, which has risen by 48 percent.
The obvious result of such an ill conceived tax hike is that sales of heating oil have fallen by 80 percent, whilst 70 percent of the suppliers have been forced out of business. Sales have not dropped because Greeks are cosy and warm, but because for the majority oil has now become an unaffordable luxury. The government has lost out big time too. KTG reported the tax take on oil has fallen by €400 million since sales commenced in October 2012.
As Greeks brace themselves for a spell of severe winter weather they have the choice of huddling shivering under blankets or resorting to the heat of days past, the woodburner or fireplace. Despite calls by many politicians for the tax levy to be reduced to allow people to obtain clean heat without polluting the environment with smoke, Ta Nea reported Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras has announced there will be no relief in the heating taxation.
Stournaras, no doubt enjoying a centrally heated office at taxpayers expense, reiterated there will be no let up in taxes, even self-defeating ones which cost the revenue lost income. He said "We need to do patience for one year. The next installment will not come if you relax." His words are sure to warm the hearts of Greeks that are reduced to burning their furniture for heat.
The constant health warnings which have been thrown at Greeks over the last several weeks, regarding the health risks of burning wood, no doubt lay the groundwork for another tax levy, next time on wood. Already there are rumours of subsidies towards installing more effective fireplaces and burners, though quite how the populace is meant to come up with the cash to convert to more efficient fireplaces appears to be a moot point. Given the choice the majority would prefer to fire up their boilers and enjoy central heating.
The government's obviously inept taxation policy on heating oil, together with natural gas price rises and a huge hike in electricity prices that came into effect in the New Year, has resulted in an environmental mess. Smog hovers over major cities and illegal logging threatens forestry land. The practical costs to the health service through air pollutants are as yet immeasurable.
Government refusal to lower the taxes will only make matters worse despite the health warnings, as the weather turns colder. Not only will Greeks shiver from inadequate warmth provided by inefficient burners, they will shiver still more knowing they are polluting their children.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Smog Greece, Wood burning, tax on heating oil, Health risks, Yiannis Stournaras
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