Strike in refineries: why stockpiling fuels increases shortage and risk of inflation
“Don’t go there if you don’t need to go”. Asked this Thursday morning on Franceinfo, Olivier Gantois is categorical: “There are stations that have fuel all over the national territory. The president of Ufip (French Union of Petroleum Industries), the main union of fuel distributors, is however concerned about the behavior of certain motorists, even if he does not note no rush at the pump yet. While refinery employees were called upon by the CGT to renew the strike movement against the pension reformup to a third of the stations had empty tanks in some departments this morning.
“The biggest risk is severe panic, to the point where consumers are fighting at the pump,” said an oil industry official. We have an overall stock of three to four months in all oil logistics in France. The last episode to date, in October, had lasted a month. France had held on.
Local depots still full
The local depots, dispatched throughout France, are filled and still delivering on Monday, according to this source of oil logistics in France, counting the few days of delay to resupply petrol stations.
“Shortage is a problem of the gap between demand planning and actual demand,” explains Salomée Ruel, teacher-researcher in management science at Kedge Business School. “Whether it’s for oil or toilet paper, we find ourselves in a situation where the consumer will have the individualistic reflex to go and help himself before his neighbour,” explains the supply chain specialist.
A crisis being an event that is very difficult to predict, companies try to smooth production over the whole year. And it is dangerous for them to overreact in the event of a peak in demand. “Motorists who have filled up a week earlier than expected will not drive twice as much: the stock was in the service station and it is now in the car tank”, sums up Salomée Ruel.
“Whiplash” and inflation risk
Petrol stations could order more oil to satisfy their customers’ instantaneous demand, but this would not be attractive to them or to consumers in the long term. This “boost” would give way to higher prices due to weaker demand. “The consumer must remain reasonable because he is the one who pays in the end,” says the researcher. He will quickly realize that irrational behavior is a factor of inflation”. Salomé Ruel, however, wants to be optimistic and judges that the recent shortages have succeeded in educating citizens on these subjects.
For Jérôme Libeskind, founder of the firm Logicités, it is also up to the industry to take its responsibilities: “We live at a time when companies no longer store because it has a financial blow”, underlines the expert in urban logistics. We can ask ourselves the question of the safety stock in many sectors: from pharmaceutical products to oil, we are in a situation of permanent risk, sensitive to the slightest event, health, geopolitics or industrial. »
Faced with the prospect of a shortage, the government could requisition the personnel of the refineries on strike, as he had already done last October to end the strike movement at Esso-ExxonMobil.