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French fuel shortages could trigger further tensions and social unrest

Strikes at petrol companies (Exxon Movbile and TotalEnergies) have led to fuel production in France falling markedly during the last two weeks. During the weekend (October 8 - 9), about two out of every five gas stations were out of service.

The strikes took effect on September 20, after union demands of wage increases of 10%, which have caused domestic fuel manufacturing to fall over 60%. The situation has led to government having to implement strategic reserves and long queues are forming at fuel stations in the Paris region as drivers tried to fill up before more pumps run out of supplies.

The French government is under mounting pressure to resolve the situation - President Macron has called for a quick end to the strike. Failure to meet worker demands could lead to further fuel shortages and add to broader social discontent over the ongoing cost-of-living crisis. This reflects a large vulnerability within the petroleum sector, as the fuel crisis possibly could have implications for the national economy as well as for the government’s credibility.