For centuries, the “left” hoped popular movements would lead to changes for the better. Today, many leftists seem terrified of popular movements for change, convinced “populism” must lead to “fascism.” But it needn’t be so, says Diana Johnstone.
by Diana Johnstone
Part 3 - Incoherent Energy Policies
And the tax announced by the government – an additional 6.6 cents per liter for diesel and an additional 2.9 centers per liter of gasoline – are only the first steps in a series of planned increases over the next years. The measures are supposed to incite people to drive less or even better, to scrap their old vehicles and buy nice new electric cars.
More and more “governance” is an exercise in social engineering by technocrats who know what is best. This particular exercise goes directly opposite to an earlier government measure of social engineering which used economic incitements to get people to buy cars running on diesel. Now the government has changed its mind. Over half of personal vehicles still run on diesel, although the percentage has been dropping. Now their owners are told to go buy an electric car instead. But people living on the edge simply can’t afford the switch.
Besides, the energy policy is incoherent. In theory, the “green” economy includes shutting down France’s many nuclear power plants. Without them, where would the electricity come from to run the electric cars? And nuclear power is “clean”, no CO2. So what is going on? People wonder.
The most promising alternative sources of energy in France are the strong tides along northern coasts. But last July, the Tidal Energies project on the Normandy coast was suddenly dropped because it wasn’t profitable – not enough customers. This is symptomatic of what is wrong with the current government. Major new industrial projects are almost never profitable at first, which is why they need government support and subsidies to get going, with a view to the future. Such projects were supported under de Gaulle, raising France to the status of major industrial power, and providing unprecedented prosperity for the population as a whole. But the Macron government is not investing in the future nor doing anything to preserve industries that remain. The key French energy corporation Alstom was sold to General Electric under his watch.
Indeed, it is perfectly hypocritical to call the French gas tax an “ecotax” since the returns from a genuine ecotax would be invested to develop clean energies – such as tidal power plants. Rather, the benefits are earmarked to balance the budget, that is, to serve the government debt.
The Macronian gas tax is just another austerity measure – along with cutting back public services and “selling the family jewels”, that is, selling potential money-makers like Alstom, port facilities and the Paris airports.