DOSSIER. Hausse des prix des carburants : la flambée qui met l’exécutif sous pression

l’essentielThe price of gasoline, which has reached very high levels at the end of summer, is prompting the government to react. Bruno Le Maire has urged TotalEnergies to uphold its commitment to capping prices beyond 2023, while Agnès Panier-Runacher is trying to convince distributors to continue their operations at cost price. The opposition is unhappy with these measures.

It’s difficult to miss: this summer, amidst the « fuel at cost price » operations implemented on weekends of major departures by some distributors, motorists have noticed that fuel prices have reached heights not seen since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. The €2 mark has already been crossed in many stations, for both diesel and unleaded, in an economic context that remains volatile for French people who are still subject to the consequences of inflation.

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So naturally, the subject quickly made its way into the political sphere. No one has forgotten that the Yellow Vest crisis started in the fall of 2018 following an unprecedented surge in fuel prices. The government, first and foremost, wants to avoid giving more reasons for social unrest to escalate. At all costs? Not necessarily.

Instead of announcing the implementation of a new discount supported by public spending, Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire chose last week to invite TotalEnergies to extend its price cap at the pump « beyond December 31st ». The French oil giant has indeed committed to not exceeding €1.99 per liter for its fuels, but the increase in the price of oil is expected to continue at least until January 2024. As a result, prices at gas stations could soar even more dramatically, and no one wants to assume the consequences at the moment.

Critiques des oppositions

« I cannot reword »

Each person has their own proposal: the general secretary of Europe Écologie-Les Verts, Marine Tondelier, suggests targeted aid checks to « urgently help French men and women who need this fuel to work, to live, to see their family. » Accusing Bruno Le Maire of being « the spokesperson for Total, » she advocates for the implementation of alternatives to cars and oil because « it will become increasingly expensive. »

Important meeting on Tuesday.

On the side of motorists’ associations, the same requests have been reiterated for months: a decrease in the taxes imposed by the government to lower prices at gas stations, as Pierre Chasseray, general delegate of « 40 million motorists, » reminded on Monday. « We have one of the most excessive tax systems in the world, » he criticized on France Bleu, emphasizing the importance of the TICPE (domestic consumption tax on energy products) and VAT on fuel prices. These two taxes alone represent a fixed income of nearly €1 per liter that goes directly into the state’s coffers.

On Tuesday, the Minister of Energy Transition, Agnès Panier-Runacher, is scheduled to lead a crucial meeting for the government on this matter. She will be welcoming fuel distributors to the ministry and asking them to continue their « cost price sales » operations that were implemented during the summer.