Rising oil prices irk consumers worldwide

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Rising oil prices irk consumers worldwide

By Peter Ford

PARIS: If the soaring price of gasoline angers you each time you fill your tank, here's a little consolation: You are not alone.

Across the globe, pump prices are fuelling frustration. In France, protesting fishermen this week dumped loads of sardines in front of government offices and blocked every port in the country. In Thailand, 1,000 truckers converged on the capital, Bangkok. In Bangladesh, a fuel strike Wednesday brought the country to a standstill.

And governments are listening to this citizen revolt, directed largely at high taxes on fuel. In bids to stay popular, political leaders are cutting gasoline taxes to help motorists and businesses. But in doing so, they are reversing the environmental policies aimed at reducing energy consumption and slowing global warming.

In Britain, hundreds of thousands of motorists have joined a "Dump the Pump" rolling boycott of filling stations to express their anger at the steady rise in gas prices - already the highest in Europe at about $5 a gallon - and especially at the taxes that make up nearly 80 per cent of the price.

In Australia, the government is fighting off a rebellion in its own ranks from members of Parliament who want to freeze gas taxes. In Southeast Asian countries, fishermen, taxi drivers, and truckers have all staged demonstrations, following the example of US truckers who clogged the streets of Washington last winter to protest high diesel prices.

In their anxiety to assuage citizens' anger, many governments have made concessions, cutting the taxes that they slap on fuel.

France's Finance Minister Laurent Fabius announced that as part of a sweeping tax reform the heating fuel tax will be cut by 30 per cent and the Value Added Tax (VAT) on all oil products will be frozen.

The British government has already abandoned its ecology- conscious "fuel-tax escalator," whereby gasoline prices automatically rose 6 per cent more than inflation each year. The Thai government dispersed the truckers' protest by promising to subsidize diesel prices, and the Malaysian industry minister this week pledged to help companies whose energy costs have risen. Italy and Greece have cut gas taxes this year, and the Portuguese government has adopted a sliding scale by which taxes automatically fall with each jump in the price of oil.

These efforts to keep pump prices down fly in the face of previous policies designed to discourage fuel consumption "There is pressure to reduce taxes, but that would be a very bad thing," argues Stefan van Kerk, an energy official at the European Commission. "It would send the wrong message to OPEC [Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries] that if they raise prices, we will lower taxes; and also in the long term, what is important is to answer the environmental concerns." That, says Dr. Sheridan, means that "governments have very few options. The best one is to put pressure on OPEC countries to boost production."

OPEC has raised production twice this year, but crude-oil prices continue to climb - largely because the US economy is booming, Europe's economies have picked up, and Asian countries have bounced back.

Saudi Arabia appears willing to help consumer countries, promising on Wednesday to work with other OPEC countries for a "suitable rise" in oil output at a meeting on Sept. 10. But smaller producers already pumping at maximum capacity, would like to see prices stay above $30 a barrel for as long as possible.-Dawn/LATS Service (c) Christian Science Monitor.

-- (in@the.news), September 04, 2000


Rising oil prices are GOOD. They reduce frivolous consumption of the pollutant petroleum.

-- (irked@Ralph.Nader), September 04, 2000.

>> Rising oil prices are GOOD. They reduce frivolous consumption of the pollutant petroleum. <<

You're at least half right. But in most of the places mentioned by the article consumption of oil is hardly "frivolous". In many, many countries high taxes on oil have induced the kind of efficiencies that the USA has avoided since 1986.

If I had the power, in countries like France or Thailand, I would soften the price rise a bit by curbing taxes on oil, kind of like indexing for the cost-of-living. There is enough margin provided by taxes there that they could cap off any yearly price increase at a maximum and then make up for it in years when prices dropped or rose more slowly. This would stabilize the rise and make it easier for businesses to plan around.

-- Brian McLaughlin (brianm@ims.com), September 04, 2000.


Can you say "micro-managed economy"? Wow, what a mess. BTW, I missed why you went in the hospital. Hope all went well.

-- Lars (lars@indy.net), September 04, 2000.

Keep cool folks.. Saddam has cancer... Saddam has oil. Probably ten percent of world supply locked away. It won't be long before someone gets the bright idea that for humanitarian reasons we could forgive Saddam, Hey Presto======= all would be well(except for the oil men,) mgi

-- me197a (mgirving@es.co.nz), September 05, 2000.

>> BTW, I missed why you went in the hospital. Hope all went well. <<

I wasn't in the hospital. I was just making a bad joke.

Z told me he was coming to Oregon "to look at your salmon problem". I was pretending that he meant me, personally, and that examining my "salmon problem" was analogous to, er, some other kinds of examinations (don't ask).

-- Brian McLaughlin (brianm@ims.com), September 05, 2000.

Good, glad I misunderstood. Just watch out for those "sock it to me" salmon.

-- Lars (lars@indy.net), September 05, 2000.

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