Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Protests increase over fuel prices

US motorists are facing higher prices but Europe pay more than double

Soaring fuel prices have forced ministers to hold meetings to discuss the issue. Global oil production is at its limit according to some analysts but UK government ministers want to boost North Sea oil production to help supply increased demand. The French PM has called for an EU wide cap on VAT, but so far the British Prime Minister has rejected calls to lower fuel taxes [BBC / Sky News].

In the UK lorry drivers protested yesterday as they called on the government to cut the tax on fuel. Across Europe the price of fuel has risen dramatically over the past year, up 30% in some cases. In the UK the price per litre is as high as £1.30. In the US it sells for less than half the price seen in Europe. Those in the Middle East can pay as little as 5 pence a litre. And many motorists see the discrepancy as unnecessary and draconian tax placed on fuel.

Across the rest of Europe there have been several protests as the price of fuel rockets. Fishermen are continuing their strike in Spain for the third day running and French fishermen are continuing to blockade port entrances. Belgian fisherman have also joined the blockades and ferry travel has been severely disrupted. There were further worries today after Indonesia announced it would pull out from OPEC [CNN].

The increasing price has fuelled more than a few protests in the West. Across many poorer parts of the world the fuel price rise has increased the price of food and in turn precipitated food riots. As it becomes more difficult to make ends meet, some have targeted migrant workers as recently seen in South Africa. Migrants from Zimbabwe and Mozambique have been beaten and killed by South Africans in riots fuelled by increased prices and decreasing employment. Food riots have been seen in several other parts of the world . Haiti has seen violent uprisings over the past few months and Egypt has also seen disturbances.

As land is turned over to produce bio-fuels, agricultural land is dwindling. This in turn has resulted in world shortages of basic foodstuffs including rice which has more than doubled in price in the last year. Bad weather and natural disasters have also had their effects on food production. The snow, cyclones and earthquakes that have hit Asia has destroyed many tonnes of crops. The World Health Organisation has already warned of further problems to come [CNN special]

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