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Truck drivers stand near their trucks during a protest against high diesel prices. (AP)

Europe’s High Gas Prices Cause Wave of Protests

May 30, 2008 07:03 AM
by Anne Szustek
Laborers and small-business owners across Europe are putting their feet down—and taking to the streets—over fuel prices as high as $11 per gallon.

30-Second Summary

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A brigade of truckers-cum-protesters in London delivered a petition to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown Tuesday, complaining of high fuel prices. A gallon of regular unleaded gas in Britain goes for approximately $8.60, while a gallon of diesel sells for around $9.50.

“It’s hard to find words to describe the severity of the problem,” said Peter Carroll, one of the protesters and a spokesperson for the British trucking industry.

Marine diesel prices have shot up by as much as 40 percent since January, prompting riots among French fishermen over the past two to three weeks. Similar demonstrations erupted in Spain this week, and are expected in Greece, Portugal and Italy.

The French government proffered $173 million in aid to the fishing industry on May 21. French President Nicolas Sarkozy suggested a cut in fuel VAT (value-added tax); however, the move must be vetted by all 27 EU member states.

Europe historically has had pricier gas than the United States, thanks in part to VAT of 15-20 percent applied at the pump. Taxes account for only 11 percent of gas prices in America.

U.K. government finance chief Alastair Darling said that a fuel tax increase scheduled for October will probably be deferred. “I am very conscious of the fact that people are concerned about the amount of money they are now having to pay out every time they have to fill up their car,” U.K. paper The Guardian quoted him as saying.

Headline Links: High gas prices spark protests, job walk-offs

Video: ‘Hauliers Take Protest to London’

Background: Oil prices up, supply down

Opinion & Analysis: Oil prices worsen other industry problems; governmental steps

Reference: ‘With Oil Running Out, Learn to Conserve Now’

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