Brown calls for global action on oil price
Friday, 30 May 2008

REUTERS, LONDON - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown warned on Wednesday that the world was facing an oil "shock" and would find there was no easy answer to price rises without coordinated global action.

Brown, who saw hundreds of protesting British truck drivers cause road chaos in the capital on Tuesday as they demanded government help over rising fuel prices, said he understood the impact on families across the country, but only a comprehensive international strategy would work in bringing oil prices down.

"A global shock on this scale requires global solutions," Brown wrote in The Guardian newspaper.

He pledged to put global action on oil price rises at the top of the agenda at the Group of Eight (G8) summit in Japan in July and promised to propose more international work on "a better dialogue on supply possibilities and trends in demand."

Brown was due on Wednesday to meet oil industry executives in Scotland to discuss the high price of oil. According to The Guardian, he was expected to try to secure increased output from Britain's dwindling North Sea oil fields.

But Brown said in the long term, oil dependency had to be reduced and other sources of energy explored and exploited.

"If we are to ensure a better deal for consumers, energy security and lower greenhouse gas emissions, Britain, Europe and the world will have to change how we use energy and the type of energy we use," he wrote. "We need to accelerate the development and deployment of alternative sources of energy, reducing global dependence on oil.

Brown's comments come a day after truckers from across Britain converged on London in a vast convoy, closing a busy artery and causing traffic chaos.

FRESH TROUBLE

Similar protests took place in Wales, causing fresh trouble for Brown, whose leadership is under pressure after poor showings in recent local elections and a parliamentary byelection.

This latest wave of fuel protests, which echo similar protests in 2000, began in France, where fishermen have blockaded ports to demand cheaper fuel.

French truckers have also threatened to take action across France if the government fails to respond to their demands that industry diesel prices should fall back to average levels seen in January this year.

Diesel is about 130 pence ($2.57) a liter in Britain, more than double the price in the United States. Hauliers want a cut in fuel duty of 20 to 25 pence (40-50 cents) a liter.

Britain levies the highest fuel duty in the European Union with nearly 65 percent of the pump price of petrol due to tax.

Senior ministers offered gentle hints on Tuesday that Brown and his chancellor Alistair Darling may be preparing to back down on plans to increase road tax on higher-polluting cars

Environment Minister Phil Woolas said the government had "an open mind in the future" and Justice Secretary Jack Straw said Brown and Darling were "listening to public concerns".

British newspapers seized on these comments as evidence the government was preparing to make an about-turn on fuel and road tax taxes. The Daily Mirror said the planned levies were now "almost certain to be ditched", while The Daily Telegraph said the plans were likely to be "watered down to appease voters".

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