Ripples - May 28
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Fuel-Price Protests Spread Across Europe
Emma Charlton, Christopher Emsden and Andrea Thomas, Wall Street Journal
European protests against soaring fuel prices spread across the continent Wednesday, as fishermen, truckers and other groups called for government action as crude-oil prices hit yet another high.
The protests are creating conflicts for European policymakers, who have used every tool available to governments -- taxes, congestion charges, public-transport incentives and even bicycle rentals -- to reduce their countries' reliance on cars and trucks to cut fuel consumption and protect the environment. It's unlikely that a few protests will reverse that unified goal, although temporary rescue plans are expected.
(27 May 2008)
Lorry drivers converge on London in fuel protest
Sadie Gray and agencies, Guardian
Hundreds of lorry drivers converged on London and Cardiff today to demand the government cut fuel duty, complaining that high diesel costs are forcing them out of business.
Around 300 lorries arrived in the capital, ahead of a rally at Marble Arch in the centre of the city.
Despite fears of gridlock there was relatively little disruption, with police closing a section of the eastbound A40 for the trucks to park along.
After travelling in convoy from outside Kent, Essex and Bedfordshire, the drivers sounded their horns as they lined their trucks, many covered with slogans and placards, along the road.
(27 May 2008)
Related from Guardian: Brown faces rebellion over 'green' road tax.
High oil prices will hurt trade, report says
Heather Scoffield, Globe & Mail via CTV
The rising price of oil is making international trade of heavy cargo prohibitively expensive, and acting as an incentive for importers to find products such as steel closer to home, new research by CIBC World Markets shows.
For heavy products, rising shipping costs are eroding the low-wage advantage of China over North America, say chief economist Jeff Rubin and senior economist Benjamin Tal.
If oil prices continue to rise, the soaring cost of global transport will act like a major tariff barrier and lead to a substantial slow down in international trade, they argue.
“Globalization is reversible,” they state.
(27 May 2008)
U.S. small business crunched by fuel prices
Nick Carey, Reuters via Guardian
Many U.S. small business owners say soaring fuel costs are eating their profits at a time when the economy is already weak, making them more cautious about expanding or hiring.
"In theory we could pass on extra costs with fuel surcharges," said Vince Puente, part owner of Southwest Office Systems Inc (SOS), which sells and services copy machines and other office equipment to companies in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. "However, our competitors are all bigger than us and aren't doing that, so surcharges would kill us."
... with crude oil prices now above $130 a barrel -- doubling in the past year and rising sixfold since 2002 -- the squeeze of absorbing these costs for transportation and utilities is intense as revenue comes under recession pressures.
"Small businesses are caught in the scissors between high fuel costs and rather slow economic growth," said University of Maryland economist Peter Morici.
(26 May 2008)
Waking from the dream
Brendan Gleeson, ABC (Australia)
Australians are in two minds today.
Many of us celebrate the economic boom that has generated new levels of prosperity, and pushed unemployment and want to the margins of consciousness. And yet growing numbers of Australians are increasingly disturbed by two comets that seem to be streaking across and spoiling the bright skies of prosperity - climate change and oil scarcity.
One fiery trail reports a climate cooked and despoiled by human greed. The other marks the disappearing trail of a vital resource, the energy that propelled us to greatness, and yet ultimately became our downfall. Both entwine menacingly above us: one glowering with rising strength, the other fading and failing away.
The heavens aroused and inflamed are an awful force. Their anger shakes the groundwork of everyday life: the jobs, the holidays, the hobbies that fill our days.
The very earth upon which we stand seems to be moving under our feet; things - solid things - around us seem to be swaying.
(28 May 2008)