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Monday, 11 September, 2000, 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK
France looks for energy savings
French motorist at Toulouse petrol station
French motorists are filling up again
By Patrick Bartlett in Paris

The French Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin, says his government is working on a programme to reduce energy consumption in response to the rise in world oil prices.

He said he wanted the energy-saving programme set up by the end of the year. It would target all areas of economic activity.

His announcement coincided with a call by the French Communist Party for people to demonstrate on Monday evening outside the Paris headquarters of the oil giant TotalFinaElf.

Lionel Jospin
Lionel Jospin is keen to develop alternative energy sources
As French roads and petrol stations return to normal following last week's fuel tax protests, the political consequences of the crisis are becoming clearer.

Mr Jospin was speaking at a UN conference on global warming in Lyon. He said promoting energy efficiency would contribute not just to a cleaner environment, but to maintaining strong economic growth.

Row over energy taxes

Although he did not detail the energy-saving measures he had in mind, he strongly defended his use of energy taxes.

Mr Jospin's comments are being seen partly as a political gesture to the Green Party members of his government. They reportedly threatened to quit the coalition over the $400m fuel tax cuts, conceded to protesting truckers and farmers.

His remarks also reflect concern that high oil prices could put at risk Europe's economic recovery. While Opec's decision to increase oil production has been welcomed, it is not expected to flow through into lower prices at petrol pumps for some time.

Mr Jospin called for improved dialogue between oil exporting and oil importing countries, arguing that wide price changes hurt producers as well as consumer countries.

At well over $30 a barrel, the price of oil is three times as high as just over a year ago.

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See also:

11 Sep 00 | Europe
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11 Sep 00 | UK
UK fuel shortages worsen
11 Sep 00 | Business
Oil down after Opec boost
08 Sep 00 | Europe
Jospin's coalition crisis
06 Sep 00 | Europe
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