HALF PROMISE: The CEO of the Totalenergies group, which made record profits in 2022, conditions these rebates on an end to the strikes against the pension reform
TotalEnergies made record profits in 2022. But while diesel is approaching 2 euros per litre, the group dangled French motorists on Wednesday with discounts at the pump. On one condition: that strikes against pension reform, particularly in refineries, no longer disrupt fuel shipments. Asked about the planned rebate, the group’s CEO, Patrick Pouyanné, gave no details on Wednesday of its “amount” or its “conditions”, after the announcement of a record net profit of 20.5 billion dollars.
“We are ready to consider” a new discount, he only announced, recognizing that a litre of fuel at two euros constituted a “psychological threshold (…) in the heads of the French”. “I heard Total’s desire to set up a rebate and we welcome it,” reacted government spokesman Olivier Véran. The Minister said he understood that the amount of profits announced by TotalEnergies “could be shocking”, but recalled that these 19 billion euros in net profit were “not made in France, far from it”.
Avoid putting the networks “in tension”
At the pump, although slightly down last week, road fuel prices have risen sharply since January 1, with the end of the general state rebate, replaced by a single aid of 100 euros, reserved for the most modest. The litre of diesel averaged 1.9432 euros last Friday, according to weekly data from the Ministry of Energy Transition. Gasoline was a few cents cheaper, on average.
“We are ready to look at what to do,” assured the CEO of TotalEnergies, before suggesting that it would depend on the current standoff over pension reform. “The lesson of October is that we are not going to make discounts to put pressure on our service station networks at a time when there are threats to the country’s supply,” he said. warned.
Five days of strike since January 19th
“We don’t hope so, but it doesn’t depend on our will, the pension reform is not in the hands of TotalEnergies,” he said. Energy employees are among the most mobilized against the postponement to 64 of the legal retirement age. In the refineries and depots of TotalEnergies, where the CGT is the majority union, teams have already stopped work for five days since January 19th.
The management repeated several times that there was “no reason to worry” and that the deposits were full. Nevertheless: in October, the strike for wages in its refineries and those of Esso had put more than 40% of the country’s service stations dry, causing a monster mess. Paradoxically, the rebates of 20 and then 10 cents granted by TotalEnergies from September to December 2022, for a total cost of 550 million euros, had worsened the situation.
Critics of sanctions on Russian diesel
The stations of the multinational were the cheapest in France for a period, the customers had rushed, the other signs had reduced the restocking and with the strike, the fuel had run out. Patrick Pouyanné also spoke of tensions over the supply of diesel linked to the war in Ukraine, with the entry into force on Sunday of a second European embargo against Russian diesel.
“I have a little trouble understanding the consistency of the sanctions,” the leader also criticized. According to him, this does not prevent sales of Russian diesel, which takes a circuitous circuit via China and India where Russian crude is refined and then reshipped, which extends the distances travelled by tankers and “is not when not even great from a carbon point of view”.