Thursday, 16 September, 2021

Political quack around the tax advantage on palm oil


Voted for the first time very quickly Thursday evening in the National Assembly, an amendment intended to keep vegetable oil in the list of biofuels eligible for a tax reduction was finally rejected the next day, after having aroused an outcry.

The La Mède refinery, in the Bouches du Rhône, produces palm oil-based biofuels.

By 58 votes to 2, the deputies overwhelmingly rejected, Friday evening, a controversial amendment in favor of palm oil supported by the government. But they had to do it twice. Adopted 24 hours earlier in a few moments, without debate, this amendment postponing from 2020 to 2026 the removal of palm oil from the list of biofuels, surprised and irritated many elected members of the majority, who pleaded for a second ballot.

“The great majority of the National Assembly, at that time, did not quite understand which amendment we were talking about, quite simply because it was not discussed”, estimated Laurent Saint-Martin, vice-president of the Finance committee, interviewed during the day by the LCP channel. “A lot of people followed the government without really knowing what it was about. […] The majority was, however, overwhelmingly against the adoption of this amendment. “

Backpedaling

Faced with the outcry, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe therefore resolved to ask for another vote, while the Finance Committee, meeting exceptionally on the subject after the general rapporteur Joël Giraud (LREM) called for a new deliberation, decided, she, too, in favor of a discussion.

The back-pedaling took place in the presence of the Minister of Public Accounts, Gérald Darmanin, and the Minister of the Ecological and Inclusive Transition. Elisabeth Borne conceded that “It was an important subject, which deserves a debate”. “Very pleasant feeling to have put things back in the right direction”, tweeted after the second vote the chair of the sustainable development committee in the Assembly, Barbara Pompili.

Guarantees to be specified

For the second time in less than a year, palm oil thus crystallizes the differences of opinion between the government – which says it makes ecology one of its priorities – and its majority on this particularly sensitive environmental subject. Last December, against the advice of the government, the deputies decided to no longer consider this oil as a biofuel from 2020, removing the tax advantage enjoyed by plant substances incorporated in a fossil fuel.

First concerned, the oil company Total, which spent 275 million euros for its La Mède plant to produce biofuels, in particular from palm oil, had then firmly defended its investment. The group also argued that it would only import sustainable oil, which does not contribute to deforestation. In mid-October, the Constitutional Council had, however, dismissed the major who had attempted an appeal, validating the removal of the tax advantage.

Read also:

Biofuels: Total suffers a setback in the battle for palm oil

Elisabeth Borne pointed out on Friday evening that “These guarantees remained to be specified”, which should be done within the framework of a working group that would be set up “Including with NGOs” by the second reading of the finance bill before the end of the year. For Greenpeace France, “MEPs have succeeded in defending the obvious: the absolute need to protect tropical forests”. Former LREM Matthieu Orphelin insisted that “France must remain at the forefront of the fight against deforestation”.

Voted for the first time very quickly Thursday evening in the National Assembly, an amendment intended to keep vegetable oil in the list of biofuels eligible for a tax reduction was finally rejected the next day, after having aroused an outcry.

The La Mède refinery, in the Bouches du Rhône, produces palm oil-based biofuels.

By 58 votes to 2, the deputies overwhelmingly rejected, Friday evening, a controversial amendment in favor of palm oil supported by the government. But they had to do it twice. Adopted 24 hours earlier in a few moments, without debate, this amendment postponing from 2020 to 2026 the removal of palm oil from the list of biofuels, surprised and irritated many elected members of the majority, who pleaded for a second ballot.

“The great majority of the National Assembly, at that time, did not quite understand which amendment we were talking about, quite simply because it was not discussed”, estimated Laurent Saint-Martin, vice-president of the Finance committee, interviewed during the day by the LCP channel. “A lot of people followed the government without really knowing what it was about. […] The majority was, however, overwhelmingly against the adoption of this amendment. “

Backpedaling

Faced with the outcry, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe therefore resolved to ask for another vote, while the Finance Committee, meeting exceptionally on the subject after the general rapporteur Joël Giraud (LREM) called for a new deliberation, decided, she, too, in favor of a discussion.

The back-pedaling took place in the presence of the Minister of Public Accounts, Gérald Darmanin, and the Minister of the Ecological and Inclusive Transition. Elisabeth Borne conceded that “It was an important subject, which deserves a debate”. “Very pleasant feeling to have put things back in the right direction”, tweeted after the second vote the chair of the sustainable development committee in the Assembly, Barbara Pompili.

Guarantees to be specified

For the second time in less than a year, palm oil thus crystallizes the differences of opinion between the government – which says it makes ecology one of its priorities – and its majority on this particularly sensitive environmental subject. Last December, against the advice of the government, the deputies decided to no longer consider this oil as a biofuel from 2020, removing the tax advantage enjoyed by plant substances incorporated in a fossil fuel.

First concerned, the oil company Total, which spent 275 million euros for its La Mède plant to produce biofuels, in particular from palm oil, had then firmly defended its investment. The group also argued that it would only import sustainable oil, which does not contribute to deforestation. In mid-October, the Constitutional Council had, however, dismissed the major who had attempted an appeal, validating the removal of the tax advantage.

Read also:

Biofuels: Total suffers a setback in the battle for palm oil

Elisabeth Borne pointed out on Friday evening that “These guarantees remained to be specified”, which should be done within the framework of a working group that would be set up “Including with NGOs” by the second reading of the finance bill before the end of the year. For Greenpeace France, “MEPs have succeeded in defending the obvious: the absolute need to protect tropical forests”. Former LREM Matthieu Orphelin insisted that “France must remain at the forefront of the fight against deforestation”.