Massive Protests Erupt Across France as Government Ratchets Up Fuel Taxes

Thousands of French police fired tear gas and used water cannons against demonstrators who have been protesting French President Emmanuel Macron’s new taxes on diesel fuel, the most popular fuel in France, and gasoline, since the weekend of November 17th.

More than 280,000 protesters took to the streets to protest the deeply unpopular tax on its initial weekend.

The tax has been a flashpoint because French motorists already pay the equivalent of nearly $7.06 per gallon of fuel, but under the new gas tax championed by the deeply unpopular French President, fuel prices would initially raise diesel prices by 30 cents per gallon, with additional increases in the future.

Macron has argued the taxes are necessary, because he wants to reduce the use of fossil fuels in France and pay for more renewable energy projects.

In France, every motorist is required by law to carry a neon yellow safety vest in the vehicle to make them visible to other motorists in the case of a car crash or emergency. The protesters have adopted the vests as the symbol of their protests, and have dubbed themselves the “Yellow Vests.”

According to a recent poll, nearly 80 percent of the French population agrees with the Yellow Vest protesters, but Marcon has insisted he will stay the course with the tax increases.

It is interesting that these protests erupted in France, the home of the Paris Climate Accord, which which was supposed to be the most aggressive agreement to curb carbon dioxide ever enacted.

This further demonstrates a point that has seen throughout the world: people like the idea of reducing their carbon dioxide emissions in the abstract, but they have no time for these policies once they realize their real-world implications. If it can happen in France, it will happen in the United States.

Also. let’s not forget that renewable energy organizations in the United States often argue for aggressive taxes on carbon dioxide emissions to pay for renewable energy projects. Not only are these arguments incredibly self-serving, they are a massive regressive tax that hurts low income families and seniors the most. And from the looks of it, people will not stand for this sort of taxation.

Governor-elect Tim Walz has indicated he will support increasing the gas tax in Minnesota, but he has declined to give any details about his plan thus far. Walz’s gas tax is not likely to trigger similar protests, gas prices in the U.S. are low thanks to lower taxes and hydraulic fracturing, but that does not mean the taxes will be any less regressive.

Unfortunately, Walz’s gas tax will hurt low income families, seniors, and rural Minnesotans. Low income families and seniors on a fixed income will have to spend more of their limited resources getting to work and picking their kids up from school, and rural Minnesotans will be hurt more because incomes in Greater Minnesota are generally less than in the Twin Cities metro area, and rural Minnesotans generally need to drive longer distances to buy groceries, and get to work.