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Online car tax saves planet from carbon hell

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Much desperate saving of the planet round at the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) where, we are told, "internet-savvy drivers" have been playing "a vital role in the battle against global warming." This band of heroes has saved sufficient CO2 to fill "81,000 double-decker buses."

What this CO2 was doing in 81,000 double-decker buses in the first place is not made clear in the release. No matter, this massive saving is apparently all because of the introduction of the DVLA's online vehicle taxation system. And, er, the telephone.

How do they make this out? Well, the DVLA started with "feedback from 1,291 motorists" which indicated an average journey of "up ten minutes or four miles driving to their local licensing office in order to license their car in person." No, we don't know how you can have an average of "up to..." either. Then they took the total of (nearly) 12 million motorists who've used the electronic licensing system since March 2004, and multiplied by four to get 48 million miles of car journeys. As the release specifically refers to "customers who taxed their cars online or by phone", the new-fangled Bell Telephone is we presume counted as a route for an "Electronic Car Tax Transaction", and the late Alexander Graham Bell is therefore a late-breaking hero of sustainability.

We do however note just a couple of teensie problems with the DVLA's calculations here. Prior to the introduction of online vehicle taxation there were two main routes to follow in order to renew a vehicle's tax disc. When you got the reminder through you could either trot down to the nearest post office, show them the docs and give them money, or you could bung the stuff in an envelope, shove it in a postbox and they'd send you a new tax disc. Now you can log onto the Internet as well, and they'll send you a new tax disc. In addition to these routes, we learn by burrowing deeper into the DVLA site, it is also permissible to find your local DVLA office and renew the tax disc there, a bit like you'd do if you went to the post office. Why you'd want to do this if you had a choice is unclear, but there are a few circumstances (e.g. change in vehicle classification and/or engine size) where you might need to.

So were the sample 1,291 motorists all people who habitually renew their tax discs at their local DVLA offices, and habitually drive there? Or do they all just habitually drive to the post office or post box when renewing their disc? Whatever, it cannot possibly be the case that all 12 million of the online renewals total were doing much more than saving themselves a stamp, or having to nip into the post office. Granted, they were probably breathing when they did the deed, and granted, the stamp was a bit of a tree... ®

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