horz line

Noir Mardi Noir

photo, leaders, manifestation, october 4

The leaders line in last Tuesday's 'Manif of the Week.'

Green Boom Boom

Paris:– Monday, 10. October 2005:– As usual, the exact results of last Tuesday's national protest against the government of France, were unclear. As usual there was an argument about the numbers of protestors. The CGT union 'provisionally' estimated that 1,147,290 demonstrators marched in 150 towns and cities. Only 470,000 was the guess of the national police.

The demonstrations were organized by all of the unions in France. All their names together come to at least 26 letters. Their members were protesting against the government's economic and employment policies, and against falling or stagnant purchasing power. Nobodyphoto, parade advancing demanded a chicken in every pot but there were other issues too. Tuesday's action followed a change of government leadership after the European Constitution got shot down and was a virtual re–play of a similar day of mobilization earlier this year on March 10.

The calm before the parade arrives.

As usual the parade in Paris began at the Place de la République. A half hour after its begin the leaders were within sight of Bastille, filling the wide boulevard, followed by hundreds of thousands rather than tens of thousands claimed by police counters. A hour later the leaders had actually reached Bastille, filled it up and marched on to Nation.

Not quite as usual, marchers carrying banners and protest signs included many private sector employees rather than just public workers.. French employees of British Airways were taking part in their first protest and they weren't alone. As an all–union affair, it appeared as if all were represented, including leftist political personalities and civil rights associations.

A BVA poll published on Tuesday indicated that 72 percent of the French thought the day's protest justified, with 25 percent opposed. The same poll found that 62 percent did not view the government's economic policies with favor, a figure actually up seven points over a similar opinion poll conducted when Jean–Pierre Raffarin was prime minister and scraping bottom.

The same poll also revealed that confidence in the economy and with the unemployment situation is low, with 75 percent of the French being doubtful about both.

Tuesday's labor action included many transport strikes in Paris and other towns and cities. Commuter passengers, in interviews with TV–news, applauded the effect of 'minimum service.' This is a measure whereby the SNCF and the RATP 'guarantee' enough service so that commuters can come and go. It also ensures that protestors can get to République in a timely fashion.

As a result some Métro lines in Paris were operating a near–normal timetable and I had to spend a ticket, but other lines were spotty. Outside of Paris bus service disappeared completely in some areas, for days.

In one way yesterday's labor actions may have been a semi–failure. Announced long in advance, during a time when employment and working conditions deteriorated, just matching last March's score for demonstrations and strikes might notphoto, local 9423, cwa have sent a forceful enough message.

Afterwards prime minister Dominique de Villepin said, 'I hear the message that the French are sending us. The whole government hears the message.'

Some union folks from the USA joined in.

The general secretary of the powerful CFDT union group, François Chérèque, reminded all that it was the fourth all–union demonstration this year, adding, 'which shows that nobody is listening.'

At today's cabinet meeting to discuss the political situation, minister of the interior Nicolas Sarkozy found it necessary to excuse himself because of a headache. UMP members who support Dominique de Villepin said they could not imagine the political significance of it. However Monsieur Sarkozy managed a noon chat with Brigitte Bardot about the dog situation before proceeding to the Senat.

On the left side of the chamber Socialists wondered if Monsieur Sarkozy desired to quit the government in order to campaign for president. They were just being silly, of course.

Meanwhile there continue to be slightly less than two million unemployed in France, while more are being laid off daily. The budget is overly creative, the estimate for growth is overly rosy, and the affair of who will own how much of the SNCM ferry service between the Côte d'Azur and Corsica is still in suspension with the conflict entering its third week.

Put Some Green Boom In Your Tank

A few weeks ago in the midst of the Hurricane Katrina fiasco gasoline prices were boosted to historic highs, in Europe as well as in America. In Europe fuel prices are always higher than across the Atlantic, possibly because cars are smaller here, countries are smaller, and government social programs are thirstier.

So motorists were getting a bit edgy and TV–news has been displaying graphic representations showing that the New York crude fixing was so much, and the government's petrol tax – a percentage of something or other – was floating on top, actuallyphoto, railway flares increasing more than the crude oil price. It looked so very like the government was getting some wind–fall profits that nearly nobody noticed the 19.6 percent value–added tax sitting on the very top, absolutely flooding the finance ministry with unearned petrol–euros.

Some of the usual fire and smoke.

In most countries motorists would merely wring the hands and hope for better times but in France there are many people who are firmly convinced that the government – despite all its so–called socialist tendencies – is really clueless when it comes to the pain of pocketbooks being squeezed without mercy. Those government guys live off government money and the government perks that they give themselves.

Besides the people who doubt the government's sincerity there are others, like farmers, who are at the bitter end of the food chain, being squeezed by distributors, Brussels and Paris. These people, on the teetery edge of survival, are not famous for going down without a fight.

During the Katrina price–crunch farmers were shown on TV–news with their bio–reduction stills, stuffing in truckloads of sunflowers, and watching clear liquids emerge from one hose while grotty little pellets emerged elsewhere.

Then they were shown pouring that clear liquid into their tractor gas tanks. At the same time they'd say they hoped the customs inspectors wouldn't check their tanks – the stuff they were putting in them was without the petrol tax or the value–added tax – just like your classic bootlegger.

There actually are a few customs agents sneaking around testing gas tanks to make sure they contain taxed gas, but the farmers were philosophical, reasoning that they might save more money than any eventual fine.

Here in Paris we could salute the farmers, our good food–chain friends, and continue wringing our hands in frustration. After all, it's not the easiest thing to set up a bio–still in an apartment bathroom and feed it a ton of sunflowers.

Then amazement. TV–news can actually be good for something sometimes. It showed Parisiansphoto, id card, sans papiers going into discount supermarkets – not Monoprix! – and buying sunflower oil by the case, in 12 litre lots. Sunflower oil for cooking, at less than a euro per litre.

You know what these city people did? They poured that stuff in their gas tanks. Then TV–news got a tame professor of petro–chemistry and he said that sunflower oil is good stuff. Won't hurt a motor at all.

A protest against immigration policies.

Lately there have been a lot of stories about alternate fuels. All sorts of farmers are being driven out of the food business and they are turning to green crops that can be easily and cheaply converted into bio–fuel or ethanol. It might not be good enough to eat but your car doesn't know better.

Imagine, some of these big green fields you see lying around, aren't producing cabbages for your salad, but some green boom for your gas tank. Turn it around a bit and if you are stuck, you can eat your fuel. Not only is it nutritious but when used for fuel it's clean, and it degrades back into green. Try that with oil!

Anyway, while you are thinking about your rosy future, you should be aware that the newspaper that prints all the 'News That Fits' is a couple of years behind on this major story.

Last Friday's New York Times had a sob piece about wine growers in the Rhône, titled 'A Wine of Character, but How Many Miles to a Gallon?' This was about how wine producers have been spoiled by success, or ruined by wine drinkers who are getting price–conscious, and how they are having to divert their beautiful AOC wines into ethanol. Either that or simply let it all rot.

According to the story France had to ask Brussels for permission to turn 150 million litres of AOC wine into ethanol. The ethanol is sold to refineries and they add it to gasoline, just like beet juice has been added for years.

Then folks, because France has lots of big refineries – so many that some major ones are on strike all the time – France exports gasoline to the United States, which can't be bothered to build refineries. You are driving around today in your gas–guzzling SUVs with some fine French AOC wines in your tank, according to the New York Times.

Actually all sorts of other people are gearing up to get into the fuel business. While the United States' foreign policy seems to be focused of the potential underground riches of the Middle East at the behest of the oil folks in Texas, there are people in that very state growing green stuff that will be converted into energy.

Thanks to greed oil producers are getting $60 a barrel for crude oil that doesn't cost a dime more to producephoto, smoke from flares than when it was $30 a barrel. On top of it they get a subsidy for the empty hole left behind, and motorists pay the whole shot, choke on pollution and then global warming comes along and wipes out New Orleans.

More noise and smoke made by the protestors.

But the end is near. Our farmers have the means to free us from dependency on fossil fuels, dependency on the Middle East, and dependency on those good old boys in Texas and their bosom pals on the futures exchanges.

Pretty soon we'll be able to gas up on green and go for a drive to a picnic out where it's green, and if we run out of wine we'll just siphon some out of the tank. Life in the green lane is going to be fine for everybody, all except for a small minority of those grinning petro dudes and their sorry lobbyists.

In case you are thinking this is all a fantasy, read the rest: When Jacques Chirac got out of the hospital a few weeks ago TV–news treated alert viewers to images of his new car, the just–launched Citroën C6. This big luxo otto, coming out about the time of the 50th anniversary of the mythic DS, has a diesel option, an injected V6 of 208 euro–horsepower. It runs on bio–diesel, based on colza. A gaspump at the Elysée Palace has been converted to green gas for the presidential fleet.

horz line
Send email concerning the
contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
Metropole Midi © 2014
– unless stated otherwise.
logo, metropole sml midi logo No matter how good it tastes,
there is no such thing
as a free lunch.
Waldo Bini