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Fuel Costs to Turn Us Green

Published:  18 January, 2007

If you want to know what a low-carbon economy looks like, it's described very accurately in your current fuel bills.

Wind-turbines and carbon offsets are laudable. But the big changes helping governments meet environmental obligations will be less of a green carrot, and more a large, expensive, oily stick.

The inconvenient truth is that only when existing practices hurt will we see the development of new technologies and ways of doing business that really lower our carbon emissions.

Predicting those new technologies is the game of many fools and a few future trillionaires. But in the drinks trade it's easier to foresee what future business practice might look like.

As fuel and logistical costs become a significant part of a bottle of wine or whisky, it makes sense for restaurateurs and publicans to cut out some of those costs. Not because they want to be green. But because they want to stay in business.

Tucked away at the back of Matthew Clark's new wine list is an innocuous line with a powerful message. "By supplying the total wine requirement to your hotel, restaurant, pub or club we can use our state-of-the-art route planning system to keep road transportation to a minimum; quite simply fewer vehicles equals a lower carbon footprint."

Compared to the carbon footprint left by transporting wines and spirits around the UK, the footprint made getting it here is a rounding error. Now re-read that sentence replacing "carbon footprint" with its close cousin "fuel costs".

For all the good work done in bulk shipping, for the UK on-trade rising fuel costs will make composite wholesalers both the leaner and greener choice for the restaurateur or publican. They'll even deliver beers and soft drinks too.

A behemoth wine list supplied by one or two-dozen merchants each delivering in small lots is becoming the SUV of the restaurant business.

The rest of Matthew Clark's wine list looks pretty good too.

Few customers could not be fully served by the breadth and quality of its range. Now is the time for its smaller rivals to find innovative - even collaborative - solutions to reduce the emissions and costs of getting wines and spirits from port to bar.