Europe's green movement in fuel tax fight back

Environmental groups support high oil prices as anti-fuel tax revolution gains momentum

Europe's environmental movement is offering increasingly vocal support for high oil prices, as the continent's backlash against government-imposed fuel taxes deepens and spreads. The principle was also backed yesterday by the EU's environment chief Margot Wallström, who told journalists she was "not sorry" about high oil prices.

Leading the way at EU level, NGO coalition group the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), said today that petrol's "real costs" were still not reflected in its price. "It is not that petrol is now suddenly very expensive. It is more that it has been during long periods irresponsibly cheap," said EEB president Lone Johnson.

The group called on the European Commission and EU countries to "convert crisis into opportunity". Governments should enable the transport industry to pass on higher fuel costs to customers and so remain economically viable. Increased VAT (sales tax) income from higher oil prices should be used to support public and rail transport, the group said.

German environmental group Bund has taken a similarly strong line, last week attacking tax concessions made by France, and now seeking to counter a new campaign by the main centre-right opposition CDU party against the government's ecotax programme.

In the UK, Friends of the Earth has pleaded with the government to stand firm against protesters and to "make the environmental case" for high fuel prices. Today the group issued its own point-by-point defence of high and rising fuel taxes. Britain is currently the EU country worst affected by fuel - and even food - shortages due to blockades of oil refineries by hauliers and farmers.

Follow Up:
EEB, tel: +32 2 289 1090; Bund, tel: +49 228 400 970; Friends of the Earth England Wales & {Northern Ireland}, tel: +44 20 74 90 15 55.

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