Kevin Rudd should take solace in the fact that fuel is a burning issue for fellow politicians worldwide. As the world grapples with record oil prices, politicians are calling for inquiries, reducing government subsidies and trying to increase taxes on fuel. Not so many are looking at dropping fuel excises already in place…
Few have it as bad as the Mongolians. With temperatures as low as -30C, they face a devastating choice, notes a charity worker to The Scotsman: Buy food and freeze, or buy fuel and starve.
Here are just some stories of fallout from the oil problem.
- UK’s truckies take to the streets over touted fuel tax. Lorry drivers have staged a protest at the rising cost of fuel, at the same time as speculation mounted about a government rethink on road tax. Hundreds of lorry drivers protested in London and a two-mile line of lorries crawled along the M4 towards Cardiff. Hauliers say diesel prices topping 120p a litre, plus the planned 2p fuel tax rise, will drive firms “to the wall”. Meanwhile, ministers said Alistair Darling was “listening” to fears over plans to raise vehicle excise duty. — BBC News MORE: UK road tax Q&A. — The Telegraph
- French fishermen protest for fuel tax breaks; France looks to EU. French fishermen fighting for cheaper fuel have been blockading ports, disrupting traffic on land and sea, and have also blocked the fuel depot of France’s largest oil refinery. Backed by Italy, and possibly Spain, France is now drafting a proposal that would raise the amount of financial aid that a government may grant to its fisheries sector without attracting the robust scrutiny of internal market regulators in Brussels. — Guardian MORE: Why what the French want is unreasonable. What French fishermen want is fuel that costs 35p a litre like it did six months ago, rather than 55p like it does now. If the price remains that high, they argue, many will be out of business by the end of the year. They are not alone: fishermen in Portugal, Belgium and Holland are also planning protests unless their governments intervene to mitigate the impact of soaring fuel prices. Italy’s Federation of Fishing Cooperatives meet today to discuss strike action, and Spain’s largest fishermen’s association, Cepesca, is expected to call a stoppage from Friday. France’s fishermen are alone, however, in having already obtained from their government a promise to spend €70m over the next six months subsidising their fuel. — Jon Henley, Guardian
- Malaysia bans foreigners from buying its cheap fuel. Malaysia has announced a ban on the sale of its subsidised fuel to foreign cars at all petrol stations within 30 to 50 kilometres from the country’s borders, news reports said Tuesday. The ban, which is to take effect Friday, concerns petrol stations in five states closest to the northern border with Thailand and the southern border with Singapore, Domestic Trade Minister Shahrir Samad said. Shahrir said the ban, which would be enforced on 200 to 300 petrol station operators, seeks to stop foreigners from enjoying a government fuel subsidy. — Bangkok Post
- Indonesia lowers its fuel subsidies. On Friday, the Indonesian government raised the price of fuels by 28.7%. International prices for oil have risen sharply over the last few years and maintaining a constant low price for fuels has been a drain on the nation’s coffers … the decision to increase fuel prices is appropriate, equitable and inevitable. The reality is that it is the wealthier strata of Indonesia’s society that uses more fuel and fuel-dependent goods than Indonesia’s poor … There are very few governments in the world that would be willing to have a large part of their fiscal policy determined by world oil prices. The pursuit of such a policy is economically negligent and the decision to remove the subsidy on this basis should also be applauded. — David Stanford, Jakarta Post MORE: Indonesia’s fuel price hike results in protests. — AFP MORE: Other Asian nations raise fuel prices. Including Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, Taiwan — Reuters
- American Airlines says fuel crisis leaves few palatable options. That means bag fees. American Airlines is reducing capacity as much as 12% and laying off thousands — moves The Wall Street Journal characterized as “drastic steps” that “many view as a greater threat to U.S. airlines than the industry crisis triggered by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.” Yet those shifts were all but lost in the media coverage and PR backlash generated by a third move it’s making: instituting a first-checked-bag fee of $15 each way. — Michael Bush, AdAge
- Top Florida official calls for a fuel investigation. Filling up is certainly draining on the wallet and Floridians are desperate to get relief. That’s driving the state’s top watchdog to Washington D.C. for help. “I’m asking Congress at all levels: House, Senate, the Administration, everybody, to get to the real facts on what’s going on in this fuel industry issue,” said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson. Bronson is calling for an investigation. He wants to know whether there’s a conspiracy among oil companies and industry insiders to keep fuel costs high. — Brittany Benner, Tampabays10.com
- Turkey’s watchdog calls for an inquiry. The president of the Energy Market Regulatory Authority (EPDK) has asked the Competition Board to investigate whether there are any ongoing violations of competition regulations in the fuel distribution market following reports by Today’s Zaman and the Zaman daily that called attention to the fact that different distribution companies are offering exactly the same prices for fuel. — Today’s Zaman
- Americans switch to public transport. Record petrol prices have triggered an unprecedented surge in the number of Americans using public transport, with traffic numbers for yesterday’s Memorial Day, which opens the US summer vacation season, expected to be down by as much as 8 per cent. With pump prices at about $3.75 (£1.90) a gallon, an increasing number of Americans have already been choosing to travel to work by train or bus. Amtrak, the nationwide train service, said that while its number of passengers had risen 11 per cent last year to about 25 million, the fastest rate of growth had been among commuters using its Acela Express, which connects Boston with New York, Philadephia and Washington. The East Coast line saw passenger numbers up by as much as a fifth last year. — Timesonline