Provided by Independent.ie

It is easy to get lost in the sea of words over the potential impact of the Budget and Brexit on motoring.

One thing that is often assumed, or indeed overlooked, is the role played – or not played – by the consumer.

They/we are the ones paying all the bills, ultimately, but seem to have little say on the whys and wherefores of having to do so.

Yes, the Society of the Irish Motor Industry can claim, with some justification, that the customer always comes first.

And yes, the Government can affect family driving with taxation – or incentives as is the case with electrified cars.

But while the powerful lobbies – from farmers to builders to motor businesses – focus on trying to persuade ministers to pursue or change policies, your ordinary motorist is largely left to stand and helplessly watch the drama unfold.

Only it doesn’t have to be that way any more – on a number of levels.

Fact: most people own a car or van; that makes us part of one of the major groups in society.

Fact: we can individually influence the decision making process at local politics’ level.

How? By letting those we elect know what we want and how we feel about how private transport is being treated and planned.

Admittedly, we haven’t been good at that. VRT, for example, is not a raging topic in your councillor’s/TD’s clinic. Far more pressing issues abound.

But is now not a great time to change that?

A moment when we are not, as SIMI’s Brian Cooke said yesterday, “in normal times”. A good time to flex our muscles as motorists and show we feel the need to have our say where it matters.

While Brexit and Budget fears are creating confusion, this is a real challenge for motorists.

You may not want to hear it but it goes something like this: we want to have cleaner air, a healthier environment, so we are becoming hugely interested in ‘green’ motoring, especially hybrids and electric vehicles.

The Government is encouraging us to be that way.

At the same time 100,000-plus of us are buying used imports, the majority of which are much ‘dirtier’ than new vehicles sold down here, and more likely to damage our air and environment.

We buy them because imports are less expensive.

So while we want clean air and a slowing of global warming, many of us are not prepared to pay for them.

I’m not saying all 100,000-plus who buy an import this year would have bought a cleaner, greener car in the Republic.

But, under a certain set of circumstances, a decent percentage might have.

And that could have made some contribution to the drive to be so-called ‘greener’.

The problem is that the current tax system is geared towards you buying imports and not cleaner new cars.

Nobody seriously expects you to forgo your savings.

But if we really care about how much damage a car spews out the tailpipe should we be telling the policy makers that they should be making it possible for you to get cleaner cars for a reasonable price too?

Essentially it all boils down to one simple question: how much are we prepared as a country and as individuals to pay for being ‘green’.

Over to you.

Tell us what you think? Do we really care about the environment? ecunningham@independent.ie

Provided by Independent.ie