Truckers furious at high prices and taxes are blockading highways and refineries across the continent. Although a French protest ended last weekend, protests continue in England, began in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, and more were likely in Spain and Ireland.
Tuesday, Blair said police would do what was necessary to get fuel to bone-dry gas stations. "Whatever the strength of feeling, there can be no excuse whatever for this type of action, which is hurting our people, businesses and emergency services severely," Blair said in a news conference. "Legitimate protest is one thing, trying to bring the country to a halt is quite another." He vowed to get the situation on the way back to normal within 24 hours, and Queen Elizabeth II and her advisers gave the British government permission to use emergency measures. In addition to the police escorts of tankers, that could include using troops to move fuel to critical areas.
The British pay more for their petrol than other Europeans, squeezed by massive fuel taxes and oil prices hitting a near 10-year high.
Pumps were running just as dry in Belgium as truckers intensified their protests yesterday by blockading gasoline depots and freeways, reported the Associated Press. Haulers gave their government an ultimatum to give into their demands or face more blockades across the country by the end of the week.
Negotiations between truckers unions and the government are expected to continue today, said the AP.
Although crude oil prices dropped more than $1.30 a barrel, oil traders warned of continuing high prices in spite of an OPEC pledge to increase production.