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Furious French drivers to block roads in fuel price protest, but are they right to?

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Furious French drivers to block roads in fuel price protest, but are they right to?
Photo: AFP

Furious French drivers are planning road blocks in 60 cities across France in protest against rising fuel prices in November, blaming the government's tax hikes for the jump in prices. But are they right to?


A word of warning -- French roads are likely to be pretty nightmarish on November 17th. 
After months of rising fuel prices in France, a significant number of French drivers have reached their limit, calling for road blocks on November 17th to protest against the situation which they say is lowering the spending power of ordinary households across the country.
To put their outrage in context, in just one year the price of petrol has shot up by 15 percent while diesel prices have gone up by 23 percent.
And in October many were shocked earlier when diesel prices overtook petrol prices in one-fifth of gas stations nationwide for the first time and in a country where 80 percent of cars runs on diesel that translates to a lot of unhappy drivers. 
As a result, events have started popping up on social networks asking for a day of mobilization in 60 cities across France, with at least 44,000 drivers in Paris planning to take part in a go-slow operation.
In Lyon, protesters want to block the entrances to the city and other similar protests are also being planned in Rennes in Brittany, Frejus on the Côte d'Azur, Nice, Bordeaux in the south west and Caen in Normandy, among many others.

On top of the planned protests a petition launched by angry motorist Priscilla Ludosky on, demanding a lowering of fuel prices has so far garnered a huge amount of support, with just under 550,000 signatures 

"Since January 2018, especially, we have seen a sharp rise in the price of fuel," the petition notes. 
"That is an increase of 7.6 cents/litre for diesel, and 3.8 cents/litre for petrol."
The petition goes on to list many reasons for this sustained price hike including the fact that the French government is increasing taxes on fuel, saying that "taxation as a whole represents about two thirds of the price of fuel (about 60 percent of the price at the pump)".
Photo: AFP
"When you have to travel long distances, especially people who live in the suburbs or in rural areas, the vehicle is essential for getting to work or collecting your children," author of the petition Ludosky, who has also written to the country's environment ministry, told LCI.
"Paying €70 euros for a week's fuel is huge," Ludosky told LCI. "The three main things is to know who is being served by the taxes being collected, lower them significantly and finally use them to help households acquire green-friendly vehicles."
A social media post (see below) shared on several Facebook pages, such as "For the revolution against the state" and "Anonymous France", supports Ludosky, pointing the finger at the "colossal taxes (TICPE) taken by the state". 
"When we consume more taxes than fuel, it is not the car that must be changed but the government," said the message which was shared more than 80,000 times in two weeks.
Rising fuel taxes
There's no doubt that a rise in fuel taxes, motivated by consecutive government's desires to go green as well as raise money for state coffers have helped boost the price of fuel in France.
In 11 years, taxes on petrol increased by 21 cents per litre while those on diesel have gone up by 27 cents. That's in line with the government's plan to tax petrol an diesel equally by 2022. In the past diesel has benefited from lower taxes but due to its harmful impact on the environment the policy is being scrapped.
And adding to motorists anger is that next year Fuel is set to get more expensive as France's ecology tax intended to guide consumer behavior towards cleaner fuel options is hiked again.
According to the Ministry for the Ecological Transition, diesel taxes will rise by 6.5 cents per liter next year, while petrol taxes will rise by 2.9 cents.
According to reports, the ecology tax (known as the TICPE) does make up the largest share of the price of a litre of fuel as part of the government's effort to encourage motorists to adopt greener modes of travel. 
Many contributing factors
It currently represents 61 cents of the price of a litre of diesel and 69 cents in a litre of petrol but is this the only reason behind the price hikes which are angering so many French drivers?
The reality is in fact far more nuanced than just a rise in taxes, argues Le Monde, saying that the main cause of the steep jump in the cost at the pumps is a general rise in the price of a barrel of petrol and diesel since the start of the year.
In 2007, a barrel of Brent (the type of crude oil generally used as reference for petrol and diesel prices) cost an average of $73, according to data compiled by the French Union of Petroleum Industries (UFIP). 
Since 2007, prices have fluctuated, reaching their peak in 2014 before dropping sharply at the end of 2016 when it was valued at around $50.
However since the beginning of 2018, it has risen significantly, exceeding the $80 mark compared to $60 a year ago.
Now that might look like fuel costs have hardly increased since 2007 (taxes aside) but it is actually a bit more complicated, with other factors such as the euro-dollar exchange rate playing a major role on prices.
For example, while in 2007, a barrel of Brent which cost $73 dollars would have been about €52, following exchange rates of the time, according to 2018 exchange rates the same barrel at 73 dollars would cost €61 euros.
Photo: AFP
On top of that the CLCV Consumers' Association has said that the proportion of the price per litre which goes towards paying the distributor has also increased in recent years. 
In 11 years, taxes on gasoline increased by 21 cents per litre while those on diesel have gone up by 27 cents and while this has played a large role in soaring fuel prices, it is far from being the only cause.
And in fact, the total amount of the price of fuel going towards taxes has actually stagnated for eleven years.
At the beginning of 2007, taxes accounted for 59 percent of the price at the pump for diesel, compared with 57 percent in October 2018. The same goes for gasoline, where the ratio went from 66 percent to 61 percent in the same period.
So, while it is undeniable that fuel taxes have increased significantly since 2007, it seems that the main reason for the price hikes is not the eco-tax. 


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