November 15, 2019 / 3:00 PM / 25 days ago

UPDATE 1-French parliament to vote again on palm oil biofuel tax breaks

(Adds plan for new vote)

PARIS, Nov 15 (Reuters) - France's parliament will on Friday vote again on whether to remove tax breaks for the use of palm oil as a biofuel, a day after a ruling in favour of maintaining the advantage led to howls of protests from environmentalists.

Late on Thursday, the National Assembly, France's lower house of parliament, adopted a government-supported amendment delaying until 2026 the end of palm oil's tax advantages, giving companies like French oil major Total more time to phase out the use of controversial palm oil in biofuels.

Barbara Pompili, an MP for President Emmanuel Macron's ruling LREM party and head of the parliament's sustainable development committee, said that following discussions with other LREM MPs, the government had agreed to a new vote later on Friday.

"I will do all I can to get this amendment rejected," she said on her Twitter feed.

Critics say that using palm oil in biofuel adds to massive deforestation in tropical countries. Moves in Europe to restrict its use have also created tensions with Malaysia and Indonesia, which dominate global production of the oil.

The palm oil proposal is one of more than 1,000 amendments to France's 2020 draft budget and will not come into force until the budget is approved by parliament.

The 2019 budget specified that palm oil would be removed from a list of permitted biofuels from January 2020.

Total had tried to overturn the ban through an appeal to France's constitutional court, which was rejected in October.

The oil and gas group argued that removing the tax breaks would put at risk its biofuel production site in La Mede, southern France.

Total has invested 300 million euros to convert the site from a crude oil refinery. It started production in July, using palm oil as part of the feed stock to produce biofuel.

Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau, Simon Carraud and Gus Trompiz Writing by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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