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Cooking oil as fuel, pensions: MPs approve French spending power bill

The bill – which also includes a boost for social benefits – has finally been adopted after weeks of contentious discussions

A debate over a spending power bill ran all Thursday night in the Assemblée nationale, concluding just before 06:00 on Friday (July 22) Pic: Pixinoo, Jacky D / Shutterstock

France’s parliament has adopted a ‘spending power’ bill aimed at mitigating the effects of the rising cost of living caused by various factors linked to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

It includes measures such as lifting the ban on using cooking oil as a car fuel, tripling a bonus aimed at employees called the ‘prime Macron’, limiting rent increases and raising pensions and other social benefits. 

The bill was adopted by MPs in the Assemblée nationale after heated discussions that lasted all throughout last night and finished just before 06:00 this morning (July 22). 

Some 341 MPs voted for the bill, with 116 voting against and 21 abstaining. Far-right party Rassemblement National welcomed some measures going “in the right direction,” while left-wing groups criticised what they described as “a declaration of war on salaries”.

The Senate will now begin its discussions on the bill on Monday (July 25).

Despite the breakthrough, the process is not over for the parliamentarians who later today will debate how to finance these measures by making modifications to the annual state budget. 

During talks today, MPs from Les Républicains could also broach the subject of extending the current government fuel discount for all drivers and even increasing it from 18 cents per litre to 30 cents.

Read more: Ukraine, energy, pensions: Key points of Macron’s July 14 interview

What is in France’s spending power bill?

Used cooking oil as fuel

Until now, using cooking oil to replace diesel has been illegal in France as it is not regulated. 

This is set to change following an amendment to the spending power bill put forward by Julien Bayou of the French Green party (EELV) that was adopted by parliament. 

Mr Bayou stated that 10 litres of used cooking oil correctly treated can provide eight litres of fuel and emit up to 90% less greenhouse gases than diesel. 

“It is [currently] illegal in France but widespread in Europe and in our regions but in a hidden way,” Mr Bayou said during the debate. 

“And of course, and this may make you smile, but it is an element of energy independence.

“It is better to depend on the oil from fish and chip shops in the Nord than on the oil from oil monarchies. 

“In France, we don’t have oil but we have cooking oil for frying.” 

Read more: French MP proposes allowing used cooking oil to be legal car fuel

Tripling of the Macron bonus

The employee bonus introduced to help with spending power, called the la prime exceptionnelle de pouvoir d'achat (PEPA) or more commonly the ‘prime Macron’, allows an employer to give a one-off bonus to any employee.

The MPs voted to increase the amount given to companies to finance this to €6,000, three times more than before. 

The bonus paid to employees is not subject to tax and has no upper limit. 

Despite this measure passing, MPs from the left-wing coalition Nupes argued instead for a more general salary increase for employees, especially by way of raising the minimum wage. These measures were not adopted. 

Pensions and social benefits

French MPs backed a measure that will see rent price increases capped at 3.5% for at least one year. They also supported increasing housing benefits by 3.5% and increasing pensions, family support and other social benefits by 4%, which will all be backdated to July 1.

Another measure that was backed was the long-discussed uncoupling of France’s disability benefit. Essentially, if a person with disabilities in France is married then their partner’s salary is taken into account when deciding if and how much disability support they should receive. 

Critics of this have said it leaves the person with disabilities without financial independence and they can sometimes find themselves trapped unwillingly in relationships due to lack of financial means. 

This will soon end as MPs backed what is called in French the déconjugalisation de l'allocation adultes handicapés (uncoupling of the disability benefit). 

EDF

Finally, MPs backed increasing the rate at which electricity company EDF can sell electricity to competitors. 

It was announced earlier this month that the French government will buy out the remaining 15% of shares in EDF that it does not currently own, fully re-nationalising the electricity company. 

Read more: EDF renationalisation plan: will it lower bills for users in France?

A current law aimed at boosting competition means that EDF is obliged to sell a part of its electricity from nuclear energy onto competitors, with the price fixed at €42/Mwh – a price much lower than market rates. 

MPs voted to increase this rate to at least €49.50/Mwh from January 1, 2023. 

Alternatives to Russian gas and oil

Other government-backed measures to counteract the loss of Russian gas and oil, such as creating an LNG terminal in Le Havre capable of transporting gas from countries other than Russia or relaunching a coal-fired power station in Saint-Avold (Moselle) were blocked, mainly by MPs from the left-wing coalition Nupes. 

Related stories

France is at risk of energy shortages and rationing, says minister

French energy companies call for immediate action to cut back on usage

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