Well this is something I never expected to see again: fuel
) stations. The last time I can remember anything
like this happening was during the fuel crises
of the 1970s
This time, however, it's not (directly) OPEC
Tax on fuel across Europe is generally a lot higher than it is in the
US which means that our petrol costs 2-3 times as much as American gas
does. In Britain, which has the most expensive fuel in the world, we pay
the equivalent of $6.50 a gallon (now do you see why we prefer to drive
small, fuel-efficient cars). The prices in France are considerably lower
than they are here in the UK, but still high by US standards.
Last week the French truck drivers, farmers and taxi drivers decided that
they'd had enough, and in classic French style decided to take direct action
to try to force their Government to reduce the taxes. They took their
vehicles and began blockading the fuel distribution depots.
Within two days petrol stations across France had begun to run short of fuel,
within 4 days over 90% of them were shut. In the end they did win some
concessions from their Government.
In the UK as of the end of last week we are now seeing the same thing. The
news today is reporting that 2/3 of petrol distribution centres in Britain are
now beseiged by lorry drivers and farmers' tractors. Over 500 petrol
stations have completely run out of fuel, and many others are rationing petrol
so that each person can only purchase £5 (about 1.5 gallons) at a time.
Meanwhile the Government is saying that they categorically won't reduce the tax
Britain is different to France in one crucial respect: it's an island. Some
economists are saying that if this continues for more than a couple of days
the supermarkets will start running out of food (no fuel for the delivery
lorries). I can remember the petrol rationing and power cuts from the 1970s
but I've never experienced food rationing, and from the things my parents
tell me about it, I don't particularly want to. However I agree with most of
what they are protesting about, as I know a few lorry drivers and know
exactly how expensive it is to keep haulage vehicles on the road in this
On top of all this, there are also reports that similar tactics are being
used in Ireland, Spain, Germany, Belgium and Italy: at this rate there
will be no petrol available anywhere in Europe! Strange, strange world.
Update September 12, 2000: Britain is rapidly running out of fuel.
According to the television south Wales is completely dry, and the northwest
and southwest of England are not far behind. Personally on my way into work
this morning I did a quick count: I passed 13 petrol stations, 9 of which
were completely sold out, 1 was selling diesel only, and the remaining 3 had
queues of traffic stretching at least a quarter of a mile in both
On a political level the Government say they are refusing to give in.
The Prime Minister apparently held an emergency session of the Privy Council
last night where the Queen approved the use of unspecified "emergency powers"
if necessary. The whole country isn't quite in a state of emergency yet, but
it's getting worryingly close..