Rising Fuel Prices Spark Mass Protests In More Than 90 Countries
Photographer: Benjamin Girette/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A global rise in the price of fuel has caused thousands of protests in 92 countries so far this year.

Data collected from around the world by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project found a substantial increase in the number of street protests against rising fuel costs on all inhabited continents. Notably, a third of the 92 countries with protests this year had none recorded in 2021: Spain, for example, an upper-income nation in Europe, went from zero such demonstrations last year to 335 in the month of March alone. More than 100,000 citizens took to the streets in France over the weekend, with the largest protests occurring in Paris.

The demonstrations have evolved into civil unrest in some parts of the world, most notably in Sri Lanka, where protesters stormed the Presidential Palace and overthrew the sitting government.

As record levels of inflation have left the US economy reeling, and voter confidence in Democrats to handle the economy has cratered less than a month before the 2022 midterm elections, leading Democrats have pointed to the dismal economic situation in much of the rest of the world as the primary driver of America’s financial woes.

“Our economy is strong as hell,” Biden said in a recent interview. “The internal — inflation is worldwide, it’s worse off everywhere else than it is in the United States. So the problem is a lack of economic growth and sound policy in other countries, not so much ours.”

A June survey of 44 mostly developed nations by Pew Research found that the US ranked 13th for the highest rate of year-over-year inflation in the first quarter of 2022. Between 1991 and 2019, the US experienced an average year-over-year inflation of 2.3%, only exceeding 5% four times during that period. Inflation has been above 5% since May 2021 and has hovered around 8% for most of 2022, peaking in June at 9.1%.

All countries surveyed had a noticeable spike in inflation rates compared to Q1 of 2020, when COVID lockdowns began. Israel led the pack in relative terms with an inflation rate 25 times higher than it had been in 2020, although Turkey led in absolute terms with a year-over-year inflation rate of 54.8%. U.S. inflation went up just under 4x compared to 2020 levels.

Disruptions in global supply chains as a result of the lockdowns are thought to be a lingering cause of economic malaise, but the Russian invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions are also believed to be a major contributing factor. America has increasingly been dipping into its Strategic Petroleum Reserve to attempt to offset the rise in costs, as the Biden Administration has opened up fewer federal acres for oil and gas leases than any administration in the last 60 years.

Rising energy costs tend to drive up prices across the economy, but food prices are especially affected as many fertilizers are made using natural gas or petroleum byproducts.

As a wealthy nation and a net exporter of food and energy, the US will likely be spared from the worst of the global downturn, but many developing countries face the very real prospect of famine, and even wealthy European nations like the United Kingdom and Germany face power shortages and widespread insolvency over the winter.

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