France fuel prices: Do France’s Yellow Vest motorists pay more than the rest of Europe?

By Luke Christou

France is bracing for further protests and rioting, as the Yellow Vest movement continues to fight against perceived social injustice towards the lower class.

At the centre of the movement is France’s fuel prices and President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to raise fuel taxes in January. Macron has since agreed to suspend this proposed increase, but it has done little to appease protestors.

It seems certain that tensions will boil over for a fifth consecutive weekend, but are France fuel prices really as bad as the current situation suggests?

How much does fuel cost in France?

According to GlobalPetrolPrices, the average price of a litre of diesel in France when the Yellow Vest movement began sat at approximately $1.68.

The protests came just weeks after diesel – which will be hit worst by the tax increase – prices peaked, averaging as high as $1.74. For the first time, according to European news publisher The Local, diesel became more expensive than petrol for the first time, with 60% of Paris petrol stations charging more for a diesel.

Despite that increase in October, prices have since fallen. When the protests started, diesel was at the price it had averaged since September.

Average diesel prices in France (Sep – Dec 2018)

Prices have dipped by approximately 4% in the wake of the unrest. However, according to the BBC, diesel prices have increased by approximately 23% over the past 12 months, with prices at their highest since the early 2000s.

How do fuel prices in France compare to the rest of Europe?

Fuel prices in France are among the highest in Europe. However, French motorists generally don’t pay out as much as motorists in other parts of the continent.

According to Fuel Prices Europe, which tracks and charts average prices across Europe, France is currently the 10th most expensive European country for both diesel and petrol.

Where is fuel most expensive in Europe? (13/12/2018)

At today’s rate, French drivers will pay $1.65 per litre on average for petrol, while those in Norway, the Netherlands, Iceland, Italy, Denmark, Finland, Germany and Portugal all pay above $1.70. The top four each pay above $1.80, with Norway particularly hard hit with prices currently at $1.88.

Norway also pays the most for diesel, averaging $1.85 per litre, closely followed by Iceland, Belgium, Italy, Finland and Sweden, all of which pay more than $1.70.

The United Kingdom and Switzerland also sit just ahead of France, paying $1.65 on average at the moment compared to $1.64 in France.

However, while Macron has frozen his January fuel tax plan for the time being, should he go ahead with them at a later date, France would become the third most expensive country for diesel. Given than 80% of vehicles in France run on diesel, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see why fuel has so many people concerned.

How much would Macron’s fuel tax increase prices by?

Before the riots, Macron had planned to raise fuel taxes in January in order to raise money to reach its climate change goals and persuade French motorists to ditch fuel-powered vehicles for electric alternatives. France hopes to cut its carbon output by 40% by 2030, followed by a total ban on the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles by the following decade.

At the start of the year, Macron’s government raised taxes by €0.08 ($0.09) per litre of diesel and €0.04 ($0.05) on petrol. The latest increases would see the fuel prices increase by another €0.07 ($0.08) on diesel and €0.03 ($0.03) on petrol.

It might not sound like much, but it equates to an approximate increase of 5% for diesel drivers.

How much will it cost to fill up France’s most popular cars if Macron’s fuel tax increase goes ahead?

For those driving a Renault Clio IV – France’s most popular car of 2017 – which has a total fuel capacity of 45 litres, that equates to an additional $4.05 to fill up the tank. Factoring in the increases introduced earlier this year, Clio drivers will be paying $7.65 more to fill up their vehicle than they were in 2017.

Over a year, those additional costs will add up to a lot.

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