September 18, 2023 [Oil Price]- France has “questions” about refining margins, and decisions could be made to curb excessive profits, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told journalists on Thursday.
Inflation has been a concern across Europe, and the French government has taken strides to lower the cost of basic goods and services such as food and transport.
Windfall taxes are one way France could help alleviate the pain of high prices for consumers, Le Maire said.
“With (Energy Minister) Agnes Pannier-Runacher, I will raise the issue of high margins with the economic actors in question and take decisions to avoid excessive profits in this sector as in others,” Le Maire said on Thursday.
Earlier this week, Le Maire said the inflation burden must be shared as he welcomed TotalEnergies’s Tuesday decision to keep a cap on fuel prices beyond the end of the year, and urged other companies to rein in prices to keep the cost of living down. Total said it would extend the cap fuel prices at 1.99 euro per litre beyond the end of the year “as long as prices remain high.”
Le Maire noted that according to officials from oil-producing countries he had spoken to last week at the G20 summit, it looked like Saudi Arabia had every intention of continuing to limit its crude oil output.
In September last year, the Council of the European Union agreed to impose a temporary windfall tax on energy companies that realize “above a 20% increase of the average yearly taxable profits since 2018,” on top of whatever taxes these companies already own in their individual countries.
In March of this year, ExxonMobil announced its disappointment with the windfall tax trend, saying it would take a look at its role in Europe in light of the new taxes on profits. At the time, Exxon likened Europe’s windfall tax craze as the stick, and the United States’ Inflation Reduction Act as the carrot as the oil supermajor created a new clean energy business venture in the United States.
ExxonMobil filed a lawsuit against the EU over the 33% windfall tax in December after claiming that the windfall tax could cost the company $2 billion in 2023, and announced that whether Exxon invests in Europe depends on how attractive and globally competitive Europe will be.
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