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French Truckers Block Oil Refineries in Protest of High Gas Prices

Aired September 4, 2000 - 1:04 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: First it was the fishermen and now French truckers are blocking entrances to oil refineries protesting high fuel prices.

CNN's Jim Bittermann reports that even though the protest could lead to gasoline shortages, many French motorists are sympathetic to the truckers' concerns.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the most important oil refineries and fuel depots in France, the blockades went up before dawn. Truck drivers, backed up by farmers, taxi drivers and even ambulance drivers, in some cases, were determined to cut off the nation's fuel supply and make sure the government understands their dissatisfaction.

Diesel fuel prices have risen steadily, in all, more than 40 percent this past year. With the price now at about 4.7 francs a liter, or $2.55 a U.S. gallon. The transport workers say the government has to do something.

And it does have margin for maneuvers, since fuel prices in France relate not just to the market prices. Fuel taxes can account for as much as 80 percent of the cost per liter.

Said one trucking federation official: This is a profession that today is strangled.

With tourists headed home from French summer holidays, demand was high at the end of the weekend and already Monday many gasoline stations were running out of oil products.

As difficult as that might make it for French motorists, many were not opposed to the protests since gasoline prices have increased in some cases even more than diesel, to eight francs a liter, more than $4.50 a gallon.

The truckers' protest followed a week of port blockades by French fishermen, also angered by high fuel costs. And it appeared that the government was preparing to end this week's protests the way it ended last week's: by making concessions to help ease the high cost of fuel.

Jim Bittermann, CNN, near Paris.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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