Learning the Wrong Lessons From France's Yellow Vest Movement

The widespread Yellow Vests protests, which initially involved hundreds of thousands of protestors in November, are wrongly being interpreted as a movement against carbon taxes and climate action, rather than a revolt against social inequities.

3 minute read

January 3, 2019, 5:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid


Macron Protest

ricochet64 / Shutterstock

The Yellow Vests protests that swept across France beginning in mid-November, initially numbering as many as 280,000 protestors, were "the most widespread and violent protest in France since the 2005 suburban riots, and perhaps even 1968," write  and 

In a New York Times op-ed on Dec. 27, Justin Gillisa former New York Times environmental reporter, points to the Yellow Vests and the failure of another ballot measure last November, the Washington state carbon fee initiative, to show that "any proposal to raise energy prices is going to run into a buzz saw of opposition, including from working-class people who already feel like they are being mistreated."

A Missouri ballot measure that would have hiked gas taxes by 10-cents per gallon also was defeated last November – yet the state has the nation's second lowest gas tax. Hiking gas taxes is a political challenge, which explains why 12 states have not raised them in two decades or more, but it's not a reason to not try. 

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