As the longstanding boss of the FairFuelUK organisation, which campaigns against tax rises on petrol, Howard Cox is used to criticism from environmentalists and cyclists.
What he did not expect was someone listing his home address in Kent as a petrol station on Google Maps in the middle of a fuel crisis.
“I got 70 phone calls with people saying: ‘Have you got any petrol for sale?’” he said. “I was panicking because my phone didn’t stop ringing and it’s my private home address. They typed in ‘petrol stations near me’ and it came up with a little flag over my house saying ‘petrol station’.”
He said the reaction on Twitter had given him clues as to who was responsible: “It has to be an environmentalist. The people who are laughing their socks off are mainly cyclists, I’ve blocked a lot of them. If I find him – I’m assuming it’s a him – I’m not quite sure I can control my actions. I’m convinced it’s a militant cyclist.”
Cox is campaigning against the government’s proposal to ban the sale of new petrol cars from 2030. He claims to have saved motorists £100bn over the last decade in planned tax rises and hikes in fuel duty, after helping to mobilise an extensive database of supporters to lobby the government.
His opponents say his group, which is funded by by the Road Haulage Association and trade organisation Logistics UK, has cost the state money that could be spent on public services and stopped people from choosing more environmentally friendly forms of transport.
“Believe it or not I am pro-cleaning the air and pro-cycling but the militant [cyclists] have attacked me remorselessly over the last couple of years,” said Cox. “I cycle, I’m not a horrible person, I do want to help the environment, I just don’t want drivers to pick up the tab.
“The freedom to drive is an important thing. I’m in a rural community and public transport is very very bad. You need your vehicle.”
He said that it took him two hours to get his address taken off Google Maps and the incident made him reconsider whether he should be running the campaign group from his domestic address. “It has brought it home to me that I might need a PO box,” he said.