Viridian Note 00191: Euro Fuel Shock

Bruce Sterling []

Key concepts
Europe, fuel prices, labor action, oil shock, blockades, Tony Blair, khaki green

Attention Conservation Notice: Extensive cut-and-pasting, over 1,500 words. Besides, so what if Europe is paralyzed in an energy crisis?

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(((My, things sure are lively on the Greenhouse front this week. Not only are we still setting climate records in Texas, but Europe is having a good old fashioned 1970s style oil shock.

(((As in the 1970s, it's not that the fuel is gone. The problem is that a caste of heavy fossil-fuel users, mostly long-distance truckers, are being bankrupted by higher fuel prices. Since the truckers themselves carry the fuel, they've taken it upon themselves to stop fuel tankers from moving. The result for millions of Europeans is a sudden abrupt lesson on how dependent they are on black goo.

(((Coal-mining labor unions used to bring down Labour governments with ease, so it's little wonder that the Labour Prime Minister is suddenly bristling and militant.

(((Why some people expect Tony Blair to behave like a flinching 1950s leftists is beyond my understanding. The guy just fought a European land war in a torrent of this- shall-not-stand Churchillian rhetoric. Cops, army... of course. Whenever the system breaks down, "khaki green" is the name of the game.)))

Source: Associated Press, September 13, 2000

"Fuel Deliveries Begin Again in U.K.

By JILL LAWLESS, Associated Press Writer

"LONDON (AP) via NewsEdge Corporation == Fuel tankers escorted by police began to roll past protesters' barricades early Wednesday en route to Britain's fuel- starved gas pumps == the latest development in Europe-wide protests that have left pumps running dry and tempers flaring.

"The first trucks left refineries in England and Scotland several hours after Prime Minister Tony Blair promised a quick end to the protests. But retailers said the amount shipped during the night would do little to refill bone-dry service stations.

"Truckers, taxi drivers and others angry over high fuel prices and taxes have blockaded fuel depots for days, creating shortages that have set off panic buying and kept cars off roads. By Tuesday evening, retailers Shell and Elf estimated that 90 percent of their British filling stations were dry.

"Progress on restoring deliveries was spotty Wednesday, with reports that tanker drivers were refusing to cross protest lines at some locations. There were two reports of bricks being thrown through the windshields of tanker trucks.

"'There is an issue of intimidation being raised by the drivers,' said Sir John Evans of the Association of Chief Police Officers.

"'We are addressing the issue, we are providing escorts, we are even offering to put a police officer in the cab with the drivers from the refineries to the petrol stations.' (((Why not cut to the chase? Deputize scab truckers and give them guns.)))

"While the disruption was worst in Britain, similar protests choked roadways in other European cities and along the borders of Belgium and the Netherlands. Smaller protests were also reported in Germany and even France, whose government made concessions to the strikers over the weekend. (((The Spirit of May '68 is an innate part of the French condition humaine.)))

"The protests here started on Sept. 7, with groups of farmers, taxi drivers, fishermen and even retirees picketing refineries across Britain. (((Those militant geezers are a nice touch. Where'd they come from?))) By Tuesday, hospitals canceled non-vital surgery, ambulance services reported delays and the Royal Post Office warned that its deliveries were being 'seriously threatened.' One municipality in Wales said it was closing all 19 of its secondary schools because staff were unable to get to work. (((Great holiday news for Welsh kids! "Thanks for smashing the system, gramps!")))

"At Avonmouth Docks near Bristol on Wednesday, campaigners said they intended to stay put. 'Tony Blair said last night this will all be over in 24 hours and we want to ram those words down his throat,' said truck driver Julie Charles. (((That's pretty tough talk, "Julie"?!)))

"That determination was shared by drivers of slow- moving trucks and farm vehicles which backed up traffic on several main routes around the country. ((("Critical Mass" tactics bring nation to its knees. If only they'd been using big dirty trucks instead of clean little bikes all this time.)))


"Blair met Wednesday morning with Malcolm Brinder, chief executive of Shell, and John Manzoni, head of BP. The two executives later issued a statement saying there had been 'some good early progress.'

"'The most important step has been the extent of police and industry cooperation and the increase of police resources,' they said. (((So never mind our utter dependency on fossil fuels from distant, volatile sources, commanded by a cartel. It's nothing that swarms of cops can't cure!)))


"The public and the press channeled much of their rage at the Blair government for not easing gasoline taxes in the face of rising oil prices, which have soared to $35 a barrel. Taxes account for 74 percent of the cost of gasoline in Britain, the highest in Europe at $4.31 per gallon." (((Why fuss at distant OPEC when we can destroy the revenue stream of our own government?)))

"In Belgium, truckers blocked depots and highways across the country for a fourth day. Hopes of a deal were dashed Wednesday after Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt refused trucker demands for a fuel-tax rebate.

"Dutch truckers kept up a third day of protests, blocking several main routes, after Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm rejected demands for lower fuel taxes. Royal Dutch/Shell, meanwhile, said it intended to press ahead with a hike of several cents for diesel fuel."

(((I know that comprehensive coverage is tiresome, but one has to admire the swift international angles available in these globalizing days...)))

Source: Associated Press, September 11, 02000

"Fuel Protests Spread Across Europe

By BRYAN BRUMLEY, Associated Press Writer LONDON (AP) via NewsEdge Corporation


"Truckers, taxi drivers, farmers, tour operators and others who claim that high oil prices are hurting their businesses, continued their protests in Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Germany. (((Where's the rest of the EC? One has to wonder about the self-selected group of countries here.)))

"Blair and German Transport Minister Reinhard Klimmt said their countries would not follow the example of France, which agreed to demands to subsidize fuel prices. Protests continued in scattered French cities, despite government concessions.

"'The sensible way, the only right way to deal with this problem, is to put pressure on OPEC,' Blair said. (((Better limber-up those NATO tanks and F-15s after saturating the streets with bobbies, then.)))

"For European motorists, a gallon of unleaded gasoline can cost more than $4 per gallon, a far higher price than in the United States. (((That's true == why, over here in the USA, a mere $3 per gallon price would guarantee rioting.)))

"A decision by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to raise production by 800,000 barrels a day, announced Monday, had no immediate impact on the protests, although it did send October contracts of North Sea Brent crude down 45 cents at $32.33 a barrel on the International Petroleum Exchange in London. (((A pity more truckers don't own stocks.)))

"The German government also resisted the pressure.

"'I see no reason at the moment why we should compensate for this through taxation,' Klimmt, the transport minister, told ARD television. (...)

"Truckers, taxi drivers and tour bus operators in Belgium expanded protests Monday, blocking the country's largest oil refinery and main arteries in the capital. Several hundred truck drivers continued to jam main roads leading to downtown Brussels. Some 20 trucks also moved in to cut access to the country's largest oil refinery south of Brussels, near the city of Charleroi.

(((There's a bizarre kind of genius about this dog-in- the-manger protest == "Our fuel costs too much, so we'll make sure nobody else gets any." From a Greenhouse point of view, spontaneous popular attacks on oil refineries are fantastic news. Why, the air must be cleaner in Belgium than it's been in years. Much more of this, and they'll reduce themselves to the bucolic condition of Serbia after the air-strikes.)))

"Several dozen truck drivers blocked a major freeway in the Netherlands Monday in the first Dutch protest of high fuel prices.

"If the protests drag on, 'measures will have to be taken,' said police spokesman Willem van Hooijdonk. (((These truckers must have email. There's a Seattle-WTO style wasp-swarm thing going on here: the disparate interest groups, the international coordination, the lack of authorization from conventional labor authorities, the wide variety of chosen targets, the suddenness of it == it's all too effective not to be digital.)))

"Three trucks were parked across the road, halting all traffic between the port city of Rotterdam and the southern town of Breda, about 55 miles south of Amsterdam. Traffic was backed up more than six miles. (((Wait till they start chaining 'em together. Truckers, rubber bullets, pepper gas == this could get pretty good.)))

"'Lots of smaller companies are on the verge of bankruptcy because of the high prices,' said Ruben Hubbers, spokesman of the Resistance Party, which organized the action." ((("Resistance Party." Completely unheard-of. Who are they? A nice gold star <*> for the first Viridian to find their website.)))