Revenge of the Diesel Class: Yellow Vest Protests Continue to Rage in France Over Climate Taxes

Thousands of Yellow Vest protesters in France continue to protest over the climate taxes imposed by French President Emmanuel Macron that will initially lead to a 30 cent increase in diesel prices, with the tax increasing over time. The New York Times described the protests as “shaking French politics to the core.”

The Yellow Vests are not young college students or far-right activists, they are the working class inhabitants of rural France that have been forgotten by the leaders in urban areas. NPR reports:

“Among its ranks are retirees and the unemployed, farmers, housewives and people who have never protested before,” NPR’s Eleanor Beardsley reports from Paris. “One newspaper called it the revenge of the diesel class. What unites them is the economic pinch and anger at a president who seems far removed from their daily hardships.”

We’ve seen similar situations unfold all over the world, as political parties that have traditionally been supported by working-class voters abandon them to pacify the environmental-activists wings of their parties. It’s happening in France, Canada, and the United States.

When campaigning for office in 2008, former President Obama said that his climate change policies would cause electricity prices to “necessarily skyrocket,” and that if people build a coal-fired power plant, they would go bankrupt. President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, along with a slew of other regulations designed to undermine the coal industry were effective at hurting, but they provoked a backlash, coal-producing areas of Pennsylvania and Ohio helped swing the 2016 presidential election in favor of Donald Trump.

Back in France, many of the same concerns voiced by working-class French are eerily similar to the quotes you’d hear in Ohio, and Weste Virginia prior to the 2016 presidential elections. NPR reports:

“One protester in Paris told Beardsley some French people are worried about the end of the world while others are worried about the end of the month, and how they’ll pay the bills.”

“There are two Frances: There are the better off people who live in the cities who can afford to think about climate change, and then those living in the rural areas and small towns, a lot of blue collar workers, [who] can’t make ends meet,” Beardsley says. “And this is where the movement came from. It rose up from the French heartland.”

Despite the unrest, Macron remains unphased.

“Speaking on Tuesday, Macron said that he understood why people were angry, and promised to take steps to help the working class.

But the fuel hike isn’t going away, he made clear.

“What I’ve taken from these last few days is that we shouldn’t change course because it is the right one and necessary,” he said, according to a translation by The Local.

Growing up in rural Wisconsin, it always felt like people in Madison and Milwaukee thought they knew better we did, that their enlightened minds could somehow people from the rural parts of the state how they ought to live. Similar attitudes are prevalent in Minnesota, and as it turns out, all over the world, and people living in rural areas resent it.

Hopefully Governor elect-Walz and the DFL-led house recognize that the rift between rural and metro Minnesota will continue to grow if there is an increase the gas tax and a 50 percent renewable energy mandate by 2030 is enacted. The increasing cost of commuting, and paying for electricity will disproportionately harm residents of rural Minnesota where where trips to the grocery store can be 30 minute endeavors and where the economies are centered around energy intensive industries like farming, manufacturing, and mining.

“Hundreds of thousands would gather around the country to demonstrate against the fuel price hike, which they feel unfairly burdens the millions of people who live in small towns and the countryside, where they can’t get around by public transportation or electric scooters.”

Sayings like this may someday become just as common in Fergus Falls as they are now in rural France.