Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Here, There, and Everywhere

Rising fuel prices are raising hackles on folks around the globe.

The Daily Mail reports that protesters in the United Kingdom are threatening to shut down refineries if the government doesn’t bring down the tax on fuel. A spokesperson for Fuel Lobby, farmer and hauler Andrew Spence says if cuts don’t happen blockades will start one week from today.

"We want to see an immediate reduction in taxation to bring fuel prices down or as of 6am next Wednesday there won't be a refinery in the country left open. Every refinery will be blockaded," Spence warned.

Such a blockade occurred back in 2000 and it caused shortages and panic buying. The week-long protest five years ago was widely thought to have cost British business £1 billion.

Spence said, "Every time the fuel companies have raised the price of fuel, taxation inadvertently has risen with it. If we don't do something now then when does it stop? £1.10? £1.20? £1.30? When does the country have to stand up and say, 'look, come on, this is too much Mr. Blair'?"

The Treasury responded by stating that cutting the tax on fuel would not solve the problem of high oil prices that has been exacerbated as a result of Hurricane Katrina.

Phil Flanders, director of the Road Haulage Association in Scotland, said he had not been told about any plans for next week. But Flanders said anger had been "building and building" against the Government this year over the rising cost of fuel. "Haulers are really struggling at the moment and the Government is just not listening to them. The price of fuel keeps going through all the barriers and haulers are having to be really careful how much they spend."

Around three quarters of the cost of a liter of petrol goes to the British Government in duty and tax.

Meanwhile, Friends of the Earth (UK) called on the government to stand up to the threats and to refuse to cut fuel taxes. It says the government must stand firm if it is serious about tackling climate change. Friends of the Earth's Transport campaigner, Tony Bosworth, said. "UK emissions of carbon dioxide are rising. Climate change is the biggest threat the planet faces. Unless we take the situation seriously the consequences for us all will be disastrous. Caving in to the fuel protesters and cutting fuel duty will only make the situation worse. The Government must do far more to get people to drive more fuel-efficient vehicles, develop cleaner fuels and boost public transport. The Chancellor's decisions on fuel tax should be based on tackling climate change and reducing our dependence on oil, not on the threat of protests".

In Canada, the CBC reports that truckers clogged some stretches of the Trans-Canada Highway in New Brunswick on Tuesday in protest of high fuel costs which have now reached record levels. Drivers coming into New Brunswick were being stopped and asked to sign a petition against high gas prices. The protest is meant to last for three days, and the group organizing the protest is hoping it will spread across Canada, and into the United States and Mexico.

In Clovis, New Mexico, local residents are distributing fliers throughout the county urging vehicle owners to refrain from purchasing gas Saturday.

Neighbors Irene Tucker and Katherine Null told the Clovis News the grass roots, anti-oil company movement gained momentum on the Internet, with news of gas boycotts passing from one e-mail inbox to the next. The e-mail that landed in Tucker’s inbox said if everyone in the United States did not purchase “a single drop of gasoline” for one day at the same time, oil companies would suffer “a net loss of over 4.6 billion dollars.” The e-mail, sent by a Florida sales manager, goes on to declare Sept. 10th, “Stick It To Them Day.”

Tucker and Null said record-high gas prices are virtually clamping the wallets of low-wage workers. A simple visit to the grocery store, said Tucker, leaves her unable to perform other weekly errands. “Poor people can’t afford it,” an angered Tucker said.

“Clovis doesn’t have many high wage earners; I hope we can send the message that we won’t stand for these high gas prices,” said Null, a school bus driver.

And in India, Sify News says the Communist Party-Marxist (CPM) yesterday warned of large scale nation wide protests against the latest hike in fuel prices. "We demand a total rollback of the fresh hike in the price of petrol and diesel as it will increase the burden on the common man," Basudev Acharya, the leader of the CPM’s parliamentary party in the Lok Sabha, said. "The people of the country will protest the rise in the prices of petroleum products afresh. There will be large-scale protests against the hike," the CPM MP said. He said the demand for rollback of the latest price rise of petroleum products would be one of the issues of the nation-wide general strike called by the Left trade unions on September 29. Sources: Daily Mail (UK), Scotsman, Transport News Network (UK), CBC, Friends of the Earth, Clovis News (New Mexico), Sify News (India)

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