French fuel shortage: Strikes cause petrol stations to run empty

A wave of strikes from workers in the energy industry has led to a fuel shortage in France, with many petrol stations running dry, especially in Paris.

petrol station

France is currently facing a national fuel shortage after strikes by oil workers led to supply issues.

Almost all the fuel stations in Paris are empty, according to media reports, and the government report of 20% of fuel stations in France being affected by the shortages is thought to be an underestimation.

The strikes that are causing the shortage are affecting both TotalEnergies - whose refinery in Feyzin has completely stopped deliveries - and Esso-ExxonMobil - 70% of whom’s workforce is striking - and are now in their 14th day. Supply cuts as a result of the strikes are at 60%, which France24 reports amounts to around 740,000 barrels per day.

Additionally, of six refineries in France, three are currently out of action due to the strikes, and the majority of TotalEnergies’ approximately 3,500 petrol stations are low on fuel. 

The CGT trade union, which Politico describes as “hard left”,  is responsible for organising the strike action. This is because it has demanded a pay rise for workers across the energy sector, as private energy companies are seeing record profits while ordinary people are facing a cost of living crisis. 

France24 reports that TotalEnergies recorded profits of $5.7 billion “in the second trimester of 2022,” which compares with $2.2 million in the same period of 2021. 

CGT wants the profits to be taxed, and for a total 10% pay rise for workers in the energy industry. The 10% is explained by CGT as seven per cent to account for inflation, and a further three per cent for a fairer distribution of the increased profits. France24 says that those demands “have been largely supported by energy workers.”

The result of the lack of fuel supply for many fuel stations has been that not only private transport users have been unable to find fuel, but also that emergency service vehicles have been struggling to keep going. In response, emergency services were given priority access to fuel, which FranceInfo reports is also now requested by taxi drivers and their union, FNDT. 

France24 reports that there are 90 days’ of fuel stocks remaining in France, and the supply issues led to an exceptional arrangement whereby fuel trucks are allowed to operate on Sundays, and the government has dipped into its own strategic supplies to help ease the shortage.

Meanwhile, the government is facing criticism from the hard-right led by Marine Le-Pen, while also contemplating a winter to come that could see a return of protests akin to those of the Gilets Jaunes of 2018.

Those were caused by rising fuel prices, and the current shortage has come at a time when oil prices are set to rise after the decision of OPEC+ to cut global oil production by 2 million barrels per day.

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