France's environment minister says diesel fuel, which powers about 80 percent of the country's light-duty vehicles, should be taxed at higher levels for the sake of public health, Bloomberg News reports.
Delphine Batho, in a radio interview, said the idea of increasing diesel taxes is a "public health issue," and it also happens that a higher rate would boost France's tax revenue by $11 billion a year. French diesel-fuel taxes are about 25 cents less a gallon than gasoline because diesel is used in farm vehicles and commercial trucks.
Earlier this year, Jacqueline McGlade, executive director of the European Union's European Environment Agency, said that the higher nitrogen dioxide emissions from diesels nullified much of the gains from the greater fuel efficiency. In fact, the European Commission has said that nitrogen dioxide, combined with other pollutants such as particulate matter, may cause more than 400,000 premature deaths in Europe annually. The World Health Organization released a report last year saying that diesel emissions are linked to cancer.
Still, diesel-fuel demand in France rose 7.5 percent last year, and about three quarters of the country's new cars were diesel-powered. European automakers have long promoted diesel as a way to push fuel fleetwide fuel efficiency upwards.
In fact, late last year, some of Europe's largest automakers, including BMW, Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler and Volkswagen, joined together to push for more clean-diesel sales in the US in a campaign called "Clean Diesel. Clearly Better." Diesels account for about three percent of light-duty vehicle sales in the US.