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As oil prices spiralled in recent months, motorists the world over have been vying for the dubious honour of suffering the world’s most expensive petrol. But while French lorry drivers and fishermen were the first to take to the streets to try and force their government to cut fuel taxes to bring prices down, IEA/OECD figures show that they may have less to complain about than some other countries.

In fact, private motorists in the United Kingdom paid the most for diesel fuel among OECD members in the three months to June, at just over US$1.20 a litre, with tax accounting for 74.7% of the price. It was the same story for commercial users, who paid slightly less but still headed the list with tax at 70.3%.

France ranked ninth behind countries including Japan and Switzerland, with diesel at below 80 cents a litre and a tax level of 64.4%. French commercial users did not make it into the top ten either, in 11th place behind Ireland with a tax rate of 57.8%.

US motorists may be surprised to discover that their diesel fuel is not the cheapest in the world. That distinction goes to New Zealand, with diesel for private motorists taxed at just 11.7%, compared with 31.1% for their US counterparts, giving a price per litre of less than 30 cents. New Zealand commercial diesel was even cheaper, with tax accounting for 0.6 percent of the price.

©OECD Observer No 223, October 2000

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