Lobbyist Behind The Sun’s Petrol Car Ban Survey Admits He Used ‘Loaded’ Question

The FairFuelUK survey covered by The Sun over the weekend has been dismissed as “fake” by transport campaigners.
Lobbyist Behind The Sun’s Petrol Car Ban Survey Admits He Used ‘Loaded’ Question
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Petrol pump. Credit: PxHere.

A survey supposedly showing public opposition to the government’s plans to phase out petrol and diesel cars was carried out by a motoring lobbyist who admits he “doesn’t care” that the poll involved a “loaded” question.

The Sun reported on Saturday that “fuming voters” oppose the UK’s 2030 ban on new fossil fuel-powered cars, with three in five people saying they would not vote for an MP who supports it. 

The story was based on a survey by FairFuelUK, an anti-fuel duty lobby group funded by freight industry bodies Logistics UK and the Road Haulage Association, that works closely with backbench MPs. 

The survey, produced in collaboration with the Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) and the Motorcycle Action Group (MAG), also reportedly found “overwhelming support” for a referendum on the UK’s 2050 net zero target, which 79 percent of people say is “unlikely or impossible”, it claimed. 

But FairFuelUK carried out the survey of its supporters using an online form without the involvement of any professional polling organisation, and the poll contained leading questions on both government policy and climate science.

In an online discussion in January, hosted by climate science denial group CAR26, FairFuelUK founder Howard Cox said: “We’ve just done a survey, and we got 41,000 responses in 48 hours. And we said, ‘Are you getting accurate, reliable and objective information to believe the case for the government’s 2050 net zero aspirations that would definitely impact on your standard of living?’”

He added: “Slightly loaded, but I don’t care. 74 percent said ‘No’. Simple as that.”

Cox told the meeting his survey found support for CAR26’s campaign for a net zero referendum, telling the meeting host and CAR26 director Lois Perry, “And 78 percent support your push for a referendum”, to which Perry replied: “Thank you.”

TalkRADIO host Mike Graham, former Brexit Party MEP Lance Forman and former LBC presenter Maajid Nawaz also spoke at the event.

‘Opinion’ on Climate Change

The survey included the question “What are your thoughts on CO2?”, with a link to a page on FairFuel’s website called “CO2 facts”, which claims carbon dioxide emissions boost crops but does not mention their role in the climate crisis. The multiple-choice answers listed include “Just leave CO2 levels to evolve naturally” and “I’m happy to see increased CO2 levels”. 

Another question asks: “What in your opinion are the causes of climate change?”

When contacted for comment, Howard Cox accused DeSmog of “character assassination and disregarding over 41,000 members of the public”, adding: “You just don’t like the conclusions.”

Greg Archer, UK Director of green NGO Transport and Environment, said: “This was a fake, loaded survey. Many questions even prevented respondents who disagree with FairFuelUK expressing a different view. 

“FairfuelUK represents a selfish, vocal minority of drivers who want to use their vehicle without being impeded by cyclists or pedestrians, and who care nothing about the pollution and harm they cause.  

He added: “Fairfuel UK’s fake facts have been discredited and this claim that a majority of the UK public oppose measures to tackle the climate emergency is also a lie. 

Legitimate surveys show fewer than 1 in 5 people think too much is spent on protecting the environment and addressing climate change.”

The ABD declined to comment and referred DeSmog to Howard Cox. MAG did not respond when contacted for comment and The Sun did not provide a statement. 

In August, FairFuel produced a report for the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Fair Fuel for UK Motorists and UK Hauliers, which it helps to run, that attacked the cost of the petrol and diesel car ban, questioned the science behind it, and warned of public unrest if it goes ahead. 

The group is planning to send a letter to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps later this week objecting to recent changes to the highway code designed to make roads safer, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists.

Lobbyist Behind The Sun’s Petrol Car Ban Survey Admits He Used ‘Loaded’ Question
Adam Barnett is DeSmog's UK News Reporter. He is a former Staff Writer at Left Foot Forward and BBC Local Democracy Reporter.

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