Soaring fuel prices in France means possible oil reserve releasing
France considers releasing oil reserves to stem soaring fuel prices
French energy minister says his country is willing to support US and UK action over release of strategic fuel stocks
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 28 March 2012 18.41 BST
Motorists squeezed by rising petrol prices and a threatened tanker drivers’ strike have been offered hope by the French government, which is considering joining Britain and the US in a co-ordinated release of emergency fuel stocks to counter soaring oil costs.
Economists are concerned that resurgent crude prices will choke global economic growth, and France’s energy minister, éric Besson, said his country was willing to back the US and UK in joint action over their strategic fuel reserves.
“It is the US which has asked and France has welcomed favourably this hypothesis,” he said, speaking after wholesale petrol prices reached a new high in Europe this week of $1,210 per metric tonne.
Besson added that the countries were awaiting advice from the International Energy Agency (IEA), which co-ordinates emergency stock releases in case of severe disruption to oil supplies. Le Monde, the French daily newspaper, reported that a release could happen in “a matter of weeks” amid fears over an attack on Iran and the economic threat posed by an oil price that has hovered above $120 per barrel since late February.
The AA welcomed the admission. Edmund King, president of the motoring organisation, said: “With record prices at the pumps for both diesel and unleaded, any proposals to bring down prices would be welcomed by drivers as well as economies of these countries. Putting more dollars, euros and pounds into the pumps means less money for those economies.”
Domestic petrol prices have risen 6% over the past year to 140.70p for a litre of unleaded, with diesel prices rising 5.4% to 139.42p.
The French budget minister, Valérie Pécresse, added that France had joined the US and UK in consulting with the IEA over drawing down on strategic stocks.
A spokesperson for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) said: “The UK and other IEA members routinely discuss oil market issues and are monitoring developments carefully, but no decisions have been taken to release stocks.”
Decc said IEA members were obliged to hold 90 days-worth of its oil needs in reserve. However, as an oil producing nation the UK is only obliged to hold 67.5 days-worth of stocks, which are largely distributed among supplier depots.
Rising oil prices have become a political issue in the US and France, with presidential elections taking place in both countries this year.
With a month to go before France’s presidential election, record oil prices have emerged as a major talking point.
In the US, Barack Obama has hit back at Republican suggestions that his policies have contributed to rising petrol prices. Earlier this month the he mocked US presidential candidates for suggesting an oil drilling spree would bring down prices. “We’re drilling all over this country. I guess there’s some empty spots where we’re not drilling. We’re not at the national mall. We’re not drilling at your house,” the US president said.