[Or, dammed if we do, dammed if we don’t]

SOURCE: Washington Post

DATE: November 17, 2018

SNIP: The French president is under fire again, this time over rising fuel prices.

On Saturday, more than 282,700 people, many clad in yellow vests, took to — and, in many places, also literally took — the streets, according to the French Interior Ministry. The ministry said a network of drivers blocked roads at some 2,000 locations across the country, generating backups for miles and causing one death.

The protesters’ chief complaint: the rising cost of diesel fuel. The recent price hike is a direct result of President Emmanuel Macron’s commitment to curbing climate change, which included higher carbon taxes for 2018, the first full year of his term. But beyond the diesel issue, many turned out Saturday to voice any number of other frustrations with the “president for the rich,” who is seen as increasingly removed from ordinary people’s concerns.

Diesel, a fossil fuel, is known for the pollutants it emits into the air. Although it was traditionally taxed at the same rate as gasoline, that is no longer the case: Taxes on diesel have risen 6.2 percent per liter this year, as part of the government’s efforts to protect clean air. The problem is, diesel remains the most common fuel in France, leading many to view recent policies as an attack on working people more than an environmental safeguard.

Macron has offered his “respect and consideration” to the protesters but has refused to budge. He is also far from alone in advocating higher carbon taxes.

The United Nations contends taxing carbon dioxide emissions is an essential component of halting a steady rise in global temperatures. It was a key element of the world body’s major October report predicting Earth’s atmosphere may warm by up to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit over preindustrial levels as soon as 2040, potentially triggering a global crisis decades earlier than expected.

Approximately 48,000 people die in France each year from pollution-related causes, according to France’s public health watchdog.

Since early 2018, consumers have been eligible for an “environmental bonus” rebate: Trade in a diesel car for a more environmentally friendly model, and get money back.