Published: Wed, June 13, 2018
Sci-tech | By Carrie Guzman

French farmers call for pursuit of fuel blockades

French farmers call for pursuit of fuel blockades

"We're going to ask our members to suspend with immediate effect their blockade of the different sites", Jeremy Decerle, leader of the FNSEA's youth-wing, told reporters.

The minister called on angry protesters to join talks to find "adequate solutions".

Dozens of French farmers blocked access to 13 refineries across the country on Monday to protest plans to import palm oil for use in biofuels, a move they denounce as unfair competition which jeopardises their livelihood.

Total's 253,000 barrels-per-day (bpd) Gonfreville refinery and nearby oil depot, its 109,000 bpd Feyzin refinery, the 220,000 barrels-per-day (bpd) Donges refinery and 102,000 bpd Grandpuits refinery were among those blocked by farmers. The companies, on the other hand, have urged people to not panic-buy gas as it would result in shortages.

The move came after the French energy giant Total chose to use a cheaper, imported palm oil at its biofuel plant.

Farm Minister Stephane Travert said on Monday the farmers' blockades were illegal and the government would not rescind the decision to allow Total to use imported palm oil. Environmentalists also blame palm oil cultivation for deforestation in southeast Asia.

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"In South America the average cattle ranch has 24,000 cows, while in France we have on average just 80 - and yet we're always being told to be more environmentally friendly", said Christiane Lambert, president of the FNSEA farmers' union, France's biggest.

While the European Parliament has made a decision to ban palm oil imports by 2021, France recently gave the go-ahead for a biorefinery owned by Total, a move that prompted many critics.

Last month, authorities gave Total permission to use palm oil as a feedstock.

Hulot had said previous year France would take steps to restrict the use of palm oil in producing biofuels in order to reduce deforestation in the countries of origin, without detailing the measures.

Palm oil has been criticised in Europe for environmental destruction and some lawmakers are pushing for a ban on its use in biofuel as part of new European Union energy targets.

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