(Bloomberg) -- French President Emmanuel Macron said he will push the country’s oil sector to sell gasoline and diesel at cost as the government seeks to mitigate the impact of surging prices for households without spending vast sums of public money.
France has put on hold previous plans to allow gas stations to sell at a loss amid pushback from small operators. Macron said he would keep that as a threat, however, when Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne meets with all players in the sector this week to demand greater transparency on margins and request they sell at cost.
“There is one thing we can take action on and that is acting on abusive margins in refining,” Macron said Sunday evening in an interview on TF1 and France 2 TV channels.
Fuel prices are an explosive political issue in France, where an increase in levies in 2018 sparked the Yellow Vest movement that spiraled into months of protests over living standards.
Last year, the government provided blanket subsidies at a huge cost to public finances. Macron dismissed reinstating those discounts and also said the government cannot afford to cut taxes on diesel and gasoline if it is to continue financing the green transition and the welfare state.
Still, in the budget that will be presented on Wednesday, the French president said there would be a renewal of checks for low-income individuals who need to use a car to go to work.
“It’s very limited, but it’s much more pertinent as we don’t help households who don’t need it,” Macron said.
The budget will also include an increase of annual spending on the green transition to €40 billion ($42.6 billion) from €33 billion. Part of that will go toward transforming France’s two remaining coal-fired power stations to biomass by 2027, Macron said.
“We will invest massively,” he said. “The first thing is we must exit coal.”
--With assistance from Francois de Beaupuy and Alan Katz.
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.
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