European policy makers were taken by surprise by the strength of the protests that swept most countries in 2000, a year in which world oil prices climbed 22%. Fuel tax levels remain a hot political issue in many countries, for example in the UK's current general election campaign.
The significance of the French data is that it bucks a cast-iron trend virtually throughout Europe for increased transport energy consumption and CO2 emissions as well as an increasing share for road transport and rising distances travelled (ENDS Daily 11 May 2000).
Average kilometres driven by all road vehicles in France fell by 1.2% in 2000, while growth in private motorists' vehicle kilometres was only 0.9% after increasing by around 3% in each of the previous two years. As a result of this plus other changes such as a continued increase in the ratio of diesel to petrol vehicles, transport carbon dioxide emissions dropped for the first time since the first world oil shock in 1974.
These trends do not show any reduction in demand for mobility, the industry ministry stresses. Public transport use grew significantly in 2000, it says - for example by 6.2% on the national railways and by 3.9% on urban public transport outside the Paris region.
Other trends revealed in the 2000 energy statistics include a drop of nearly 1% in national CO2 emissions, which still remain about 3% above France's target for 2008-12 under the Kyoto climate protocol. Primary energy consumption rose by 1.7% compared with economic growth of 3.2%, yielding a 1.4% improvement in energy intensity. Nuclear power stations set a new record for electricity output of 415 terawatt hours.
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