Feature

France: Must we get rid of our diesel?

French automobile culture is having an identity crisis.

EditorialLe Monde

French automobile culture is having an identity crisis, said Le Monde. France embraced diesel fuel for its efficiency decades ago, during the global energy crisis. Since a hefty subsidy makes diesel much cheaper than regular gas, most of our auto industry is geared toward diesel vehicles. But now, for two excellent reasons, “the government is under pressure to scrap the subsidy.” The World Health Organization has just classified diesel as a carcinogen and says diesel fumes are responsible for more than 40,000 premature deaths in France every year. And then there’s money: Raising the diesel tax to match the gas tax would bring in nearly $10.4 billion in annual revenues, “such a windfall as bankers dream of.” Alas, there are two “equally compelling reasons” not to touch diesel. The first is jobs. Renault and other French companies now specialize in diesel vehicles. “To attack diesel is to attack the ‘Made in France’ brand, as we are the best at diesel,” said Minister of Industrial Renewal Arnaud Montebourg. Worse, two out of three French drivers buy diesel, so a tax increase there would hurt most consumers. So should we raise the diesel tax or not? It’s an unenviable decision to have to make, but “governing means making tough choices.”

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