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Economy

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Prix du gaz : l’hiver sera rude pour 7 millions de Français

by Maud Dugrand

Price of Natural Gas: Tough Winter Ahead For 7 Million French People

Translated Thursday 20 September 2012, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Bill Scoble

The 2% increase in the price of natural gas on Oct. 1 means an 8.4% increase over the past ten months. The Prime Minister had promised to limit the increase to 2% a year.

With the announcement of a supplementary 2% increase in the price of national gas on Oct. 1, the math is simple: 4.4% in January, plus 2% in July, plus 2% in October, and you get the alarming figure of 8.4% in ten months! Whereas, of course, the French government, via the voices of its Minister of the Economy, Pierre Moscovici, and his colleague, Minister of Ecology and Energy Delphine Batho, are perfectly able to play a watchdog role for consumers. According to a joint press release, by “limiting” the hike to 2%, as against the 7% requested by GDF Suez, this increase is aimed at “protecting the purchasing power of the French.”

With an 8.4% increase in one year, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault’s promises have become a faded memory. On July 4, on the TF1 TV network, he had stated that he wanted to limit the rise in the price of natural gas to the rate of inflation, which stands at 2% a year.

Thierry Sanchez, the general delegate of the CLCV, a consumer association, found it regrettable that this winter will be tough for the 7 million French people who heat their homes with natural gas. For its part, the National Housing Confederation condemned the government’s attitude, which had to bow to GDF Suez’s demands. In a press release, the Confederation underlined that the gigantic energy company recorded 90.7 billion euros in sales in 2011.

The cynicism does not stop there. The general director of Poweo Direct Energie, a rival of the former government-owned company, Gaz de France, also thinks that this decision is unacceptable, but not for the same reasons: In limiting the rates charged by GDF Suez, the government is not abiding by the law, which requires that rates be calculated according to supply costs, which are subject to the mad law of the world’s stock exchanges. The Ecology Minister, Delphine Batho, also said that the government will reform the tariff rules, but she gave no precise indication of when this will happen.


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