Wednesday, November 21, 2018

GWPF Newsletter: French Anti-Carbon-Tax Revolt Escalates As Lorry Drivers Join Protests

Macron’s Climate Waterloo

In this newsletter:

1) French Anti-Carbon-Tax Revolt Escalates As Lorry Drivers Join Protests
The Times, 19 November 2018 
2) France’s Climate Change Policies Trigger Street Protests
The Washington Post, 17 November 2019

3) Macron’s Climate Waterloo
Geoff Chambers, Climate Scepticism, 17 November 2018
4) UK Electricity Prices Could Double Due To Eu Court Ruling
The Sunday Times, 18 November 2018 
5) Zhores Medvedev, 93, Dissident Scientist Who Opposed Soviet Pseudoscience, Is Dead
The New York Times, 16 November 2018 

Full details:

1) French Anti-Carbon-Tax Revolt Escalates As Lorry Drivers Join Protests
The Times, 19 November 2018 

The revolt against President Macron’s environmental taxes escalated today as protesters tried to block fuel depots around France.


The move came after a second night of violence in which demonstrators have already caused chaos across the country. Protesters clashed with police, fought motorists and even attacked each other at some sites.

Lorry drivers joined the protest movement today as ministers struggled to restore order with at least 35 motorways partially or completely blocked, along with at least 18 motorway sliproads. Barricades were erected across dozens of other roads around the country.

Benjamin Cauchy, a self-proclaimed spokesman for the so-called yellow vest demonstrators — named after the high-visibility jackets they have adopted as their emblem – claimed that a dozen fuel depots had been blocked.

The revolt was sparked by Mr Macron’s pledge to continue to increase tax on fuel to cut pollution levels. That has since developed into a general rebellion against the rising fiscal burden on French households.

The protesters — who are made up overwhelmingly of people from outside Paris — accuse the French leader of being a champion for the urban elite who has little interest in the countryside.

Officials estimated that 150 protests had been organised across France yesterday, compared with 2,034 on Saturday when 409 people were injured, 14 of them seriously. Twenty-eight police officers were also injured and 282 people were arrested.

The demonstrators have promised to continue their protests for weeks. […]

Last week Mr Macron announced a €500 million package to offset the rising cost of petrol for drivers on low incomes who endure lengthy commutes to work. However, ministers insist that the green taxes will not be stopped.

“A government that would change direction all the time, that would zigzag around the difficulties would not take France where it must be taken,” Édouard Philippe, the prime minister, said last night.

Gérald Darmanin, the budget minister, said he would wean France off petrol altogether with a plan to promote electric vehicles. Marine Le Pen, who hopes that the revolt will translate into votes for her far-right National Rally party at next year’s European elections, called on the government to scrap the tax rise.

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2) France’s Climate Change Policies Trigger Street Protests
The Washington Post, 17 November 2019

PARIS — The French president is under fire again, this time over rising fuel prices. The recent price hike is a direct result of President Emmanuel Macron’s commitment to curbing climate change.

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.

The stirrings of the “yellow vest” campaign behind Saturday’s protests began this summer, with online petitions urging Macron to reconsider. But the loudest voice was that of Jacline Mouraud, a white-haired hypnotist and grandmother of three from Brittany who has become the star of the movement.

“I have two little words for Mr. Macron and his government,” she said in a YouTube video that has garnered millions of views. “You have persecuted drivers since the day you took office. This will continue for how long?”

On Saturday, Mouraud was asked to explain the death of the protester. “I deplore the death of this woman,” she said, speaking to Europe 1 radio. “But who is responsible for this situation? The French government is responsible for the death of this woman.”

Her view of the government is not a fringe opinion. According to a poll published Friday by the Odoxa agency for France’s Le Figaro newspaper — albeit with only 1,000 respondents — as many as 3 in 4 French people agree. Whatever the actual figure, Macron’s opponents, particularly on France’s political extremes, have sought to capitalize on the sentiment, using the yellow-vest movement to cast the president as an out-of-touch elitist.

Full story

3) Macron’s Climate Waterloo
Geoff Chambers, Climate Scepticism, 17 November 2018

The French are revolting. So what? Aren’t they always?

Somewhere between a half a million and a million came out on the streets to demonstrate against Macron’s last reform, and the one before that, and the one before that. But that was the unions and the left wing parties, so no-one took any notice. This is different because it’s the people – spontaneously, unorganised – and some tens or hundreds of thousands are out today, not marching in an orderly fashion through the avenues of Paris, but blocking the roads and autoroutes in over 1500 different demonstrations.

It’s about the rise in fuel prices, of three centimes per litre on petrol and six centimes on diesel. (That’s tuppence ha’penny or fivepence to you, or three to seven cents Over There. To convert to gallons, multiply by 4.5 in the UK and Canada, and by 3.8 in the U.S.)

Four weeks ago people started complaining on Facebook at this latest rise in the cost of living, and suggested a protest, with the fluorescent jackets we’re obliged by law to carry in our cars as the identifying badge. So the Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Jackets) were born, and in a few weeks they’ve come from nothing to being the biggest threat to Macron in the 18 rocky months of his presidency.

But the government is not giving way. They’ve already lost one minister of the environment and can’t afford to lose another, since, in the bizarre cabinet that Macron built, the environment minister is the most important minister after the Prime Minister, responsible for energy and transport, as well as for protecting the country from fire, floods, and climate change. And so the gradually rising taxe sur le carbone must stay, especially on diesel, which has been subsidised for years in France.

As a sop to public opinion, and in a desperate effort to weaken support for the Gilets Jaunes, the government has announced some measures to soften the blow, such as a prime de conversion of 4000 euros to buy a new, less polluting vehicle, for those of a revenu modeste, that is, who have an annual income rather less than the price of an electric car even after the prime. The existing prime de conversion of 1000 euros has already had a huge success, with 200,000 people using it to turn in their old motor for a more recent one. Except that 60% of the newer vehicles purchased were second hand, 47% were diesel, and only 5% electric or hybrid.

In a few years’ time, the person who was given a thousand euros to buy a second hand diesel car will be able to claim another 4000 euros to trade it in for another second hand diesel car, and all in the name of phasing out the petrol engine.

For years the French subsidised diesel on the grounds that it was better for the balance of payments, producing more kilometres per litre in a country with no native energy source, and Renault and Peugeot became experts in producing diesel-fuelled cars. Then they discovered that it didn’t just smell foul and turn your Kleenex grey but was actually bad for you. So the tax on diesel is rising to align the price with that of petrol.

Oh, and after years of providing tax breaks for installing new oil-fired central heating to cut down on smog from wood burning stoves, they’ve now announced that in ten years they’re going to ban oil-fired central heating, which is used largely by people in rural areas who don’t have mains gas. Not that mains gas would be much use to them, since the tax on gas is rising even faster than the tax on petrol. (Sorry to U.S. readers for any confusion.)

According to the IEA, France is sitting on 80% of Europe’s frackable gas – enough to keep the country self-sufficient in energy for centuries. But the Macron government has just banned, not only fracking, but any extraction of any fossil fuels whatsoever on mainland France. It’s as if Marie Antoinette said: “Let them eat cake,” and then banned cake-making in France on the grounds that it was bad for the figure.

The middle classes (in U.S. and French usage – “working class” in English) are hopping mad with Macron. But, as the government loves to point out, they are in favour of the energy transition which Macron is determined to implement. The French don’t like nuclear, which currently provides two thirds of the country’s electricity, but they do like their peasants, whose intensive production of European-Union-subsidised pigs and sugar beet relies on vast amounts of diesel fuel. They like the idea of renewable energy, but they hate the wind turbines which now disfigure every skyline here in Southern France, and the solar panels which are naturally installed on the cheapest land, which is also in the most natural, unusable, picturesque spots on isolated mountainsides inhabited by threatened species.

Energy transition is not as easy as politicians first thought.

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4) UK Electricity Prices Could Double Due To EU Court Ruling
The Sunday Times, 18 November 2018 

Electricity prices could double after the government suspended the UK’s system for ensuring there is a back-up power supply, experts have warned.

The wholesale power price could hit £121 per megawatt hour (MWh) by next winter unless the so-called capacity market is reinstated, according to a report — risking higher energy bills for millions.

The government suspended the capacity market on Thursday after the European Court of Justice (ECJ) found it breached state-aid rules.

Under the mechanism, which had originally been cleared by the European Commission, power stations are subsidised to be on standby to provide extra electricity for the UK’s main network immediately, if needed. Some businesses are also paid to be ready to reduce their energy use when needed. However, payments and auctions have now been suspended while the government tries to find a way to re-establish the scheme.

If no solution is found, projects could be pulled as they might no longer be economically viable, and prices could be pushed up by limits on supply. Prices on future electricity contracts leapt by an average of £1.40 per MWh on the day after the announcement, experts said. […]

The ECJ ruling has thrown the energy market into disarray, with many projects relying on the scheme. Shares in the utilities sector fell up to 6% last week.

City analysts say power companies are likely to find it much harder to secure debt financing due to the risks. Some estimate the industry has been relying on about £3.5bn of underlying profits to come from the capacity market.

Energy companies have described huge confusion about what the suspension means, including whether they face penalties for not being ready to supply power if needed.

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5) Zhores Medvedev, 93, Dissident Scientist Who Opposed Soviet Pseudoscience, Is Dead
The New York Times, 16 November 2018 

Zhores A. Medvedev, the Soviet biologist, writer and dissident who was declared insane, confined to a mental institution and stripped of his citizenship in the 1970s after attacking a Stalinist pseudoscience, died on Thursday at his home in London, where he had lived for decades. He had turned 93 the day before.


Dr. Medvedev’s twin brother, the historian Roy Medvedev, told the Russian news media that the cause was a heart attack. He said his family had celebrated Dr. Medvedev’s birthday on Wednesday.

“He had never complained about his heart,” he told RBC, a Russian news agency. “Three ambulances came, but they weren’t able to save him.”

With Roy Medvedev, the physicist Andrei D. Sakharov, the author Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn and others, Dr. Medvedev was a central figure in the seething intellectual dissidence that exposed, largely through underground literature known as samizdat, the repression of ideas, science and human rights in the Soviet Union.

Dr. Medvedev played a large role in discrediting the doctrines of Stalin’s director of biology, Trofim D. Lysenko, who was behind a pseudoscience known as Lysenkoism. He also gave the world shocking accounts of the Soviet practice of committing political dissenters to mental institutions, campaigned for greater freedoms for Soviet scientists and writers to study and travel abroad, and exposed a 1957 nuclear disaster in the Urals, one of the worst of the nuclear age.

Dr. Medvedev was an authority on biochemistry, gerontology and molecular evolution and wrote many scientific papers as well as biographies of Soviet leaders and dissidents, and books on the hazards of nuclear power.

A son of a Leningrad State University Marxist philosopher who was arrested in Stalin’s purges in the 1930s and died in Siberia, Dr. Medvedev remained loyal to his country and to the Communist Party. But he fell into disfavor with the Soviet authorities in the 1960s by openly opposing Lysenko in the last years of his reign of power.

For decades, that reign had corrupted Soviet agricultural sciences, contributed to disastrous crop failures and famines after the forced collectivization of farms, and led to the imprisonment, expulsion and deaths of hundreds of his academic and political opponents.

“The Rise and Fall of T. D. Lysenko,” by Zhores A. Medvedev. Mr. Medvedev discredited the pseudoscience of Lysenkoism.

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The London-based Global Warming Policy Forum is a world leading think tank on global warming policy issues. The GWPF newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at

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