I appreciate this issue is of great concern, which is why it has been raised in the House. I am very aware of increased prices at petrol and diesel pumps over recent weeks. This is an international trend. Wholesale energy prices have increased significantly following rises in international oil and gas prices and a post-lockdown surge in energy demand. While the trajectory of the global energy market is not within our control, indications are this current spike will abate over the coming months.
My colleague the Minister for Finance sets policy in respect of tax and excise duties on fuel. The only increase in this year’s budget in this regard related to the already planned increase in carbon tax. At a time when the eyes of the world are on what governments in developed economies such as ours can do to address climate change, our carbon tax represents an important contribution to that effort.
The diesel rebate scheme partially insulates the licensed haulage and bus sector from such fuel price increases. Under the scheme, qualifying road transport operators can apply for a repayment of part of the mineral oil tax paid on auto diesel purchased in the State. While this current spike in fuel prices is likely to be short lived, it is important to take this opportunity to take stock of our dependence on imported fossil fuels in the transport sector. The new climate action plan, which will be published today, will reduce our reliance on these fuels and allow us to transit to greener renewable energy sources for transport.
Electrification of road transport is key. A comprehensive suite of measures is available to electric vehicle, EV, drivers, including purchase grants for private car owners and taxi drivers, vehicle registration tax, VRT, relief, reduced tolls, home charger grants, and favourable motor and benefit-in-kind, BIK, tax rates. While I appreciate this does not relate to HGV drivers, the plan commits also to increasing biofuel blend rates. These are transitionary fuels that provide time for sectors such as haulage to invest in new, greener technology. As I mentioned, a grant scheme was launched in March to assist the purchase of alternatively fuelled heavy duty vehicles. The take-up of this scheme has been excellent and demonstrates the level of interest in this sector to make the transition.