France Raising Diesel Tax To Cut Down On Cancer-Causing Exhaust

By Sean Kane , Mar 04, 2013 04:42 PM EST
Former Lebanon Prime Minister meets with President Macron in France following hostage rumours

European drivers are not strangers to diesel engines (not just for trucks), but a new French tax on diesel cars may change that.

French Environment Minister Delphine Batho is backing legislation that will introduce higher taxes on diesel fuels, citing health concerns about the fuel type’s pollution.

“It’s inescapable,” Batho told the French RMC radio in February. “I am favorable. It’s a public health issue.” The current tax rate on diesel makes it 20 cents cheaper per liter (0.26 gallon) than gasoline. The new tax would make equal the rates for both fuels, and generate 8 billion euros ($11 billion) for the French government.

Diesel fuel is considerably more efficient than gasoline, because each gallon of fuel holds more energy, and because diesel engines are intrinsically more efficient than their gasoline counterparts.

But a report released in June from the World Health Organization classifies diesel exhaust as carcinogenic, specifically stating that exposure to diesel fumes causes lung cancer. The report also states that workers frequently exposed to the exhaust, such as railroad workers and truck drivers, show much higher rates of lung-cancer deaths.

“This conclusion sends a strong signal that public health action is warranted,” Dr. Christopher Wilde, director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, says in the WHO report. “This emphasis is needed globally, including among the more vulnerable populations in developing countries where new technology and protective measures may otherwise take many years to be adopted.”

The French really like their diesels. About 80 percent of the French car-fuel market comes from diesel. And last year, about 73 percent of new cars sold in France were diesels, reports Bloomberg. And the numbers are still rising, as seen in fuel demand. Diesel grew 7.5 percent in 2012 to 38.1 million metric tons, while gasoline fell by 6.5 percent to 7.3 million tons.

The new tax would be introduced gradually, Jean-Louis Schilansky, head of the oil industry lobby in the country, told Bloomberg. “It should be done in a determined way over the next five years.”

(Edited by Lois Heyman)

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