By Dom Nozzi
December 8, 2018
Here are my three big take-aways from the “yellow vest” riots/protests in France in recent weeks that forced the French Prime Minister (Macron) to withdraw his proposal to add a tax to diesel fuel.
First, almost always, it takes someone from the political right wing to propose something bold on environmental conservation – in this case, efforts to reduce excessive motor vehicle driving as a method of achieving climate change goals (I understand Macron is on the political right). Let us not forget that it was Richard Nixon who established the Environmental Protection Agency. Due to political dynamics, I firmly believe that it is far more likely that a Republican prez will adopt a carbon tax in the US than a Democratic prez.
Second, the extreme, violent opposition to the proposed tax happened in a nation that has far more development density, parking restrictions/costs, passenger rail, and high fuel costs than the US. Each of those factors should make it politically easier to adopt this form of carbon tax. The fact that, on the contrary, the tax was overwhelmingly opposed in a nation such as France shows that there is little or no chance that any nations on earth (particularly the US) will find the political will in our lifetimes to adopt meaningful climate change tactics.
Third, when we build a car-based world (as we have done for the past century), we lock ourselves into a self-perpetuating, long-term downward spiral that traps us in auto dependency. Even those who are strong environmentalists typically find it extremely difficult to live a car-free or even a car-light lifestyle. That means that it is nearly inevitable that there will be extreme, bi-partisan, nearly unanimous opposition to anything that adds costs or inconvenience to driving. A car-based world just makes it too impractical for all but the “lifestyle extremists” to avoid making nearly all trips by car.
We can scream and yell all we want regarding Republicans, morons, or nefarious individuals and groups who don’t believe in climate change, but when it comes to actually taking effective steps to address climate change, almost none of us has the stomach for accepting such tactics.
This state of affairs reminds me of a superb satire that Tom Toles did several years ago.