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France implies US taking advantage of EU energy crisis amid Ukraine conflict

A view shows pipes at the landfall facilities of the 'Nord Stream 1' gas pipeline in Lubmin, Germany, July 21, 2022. (Photo by Reuters)

France's finance minister has warned that the United States should not be allowed to dominate the global energy market while the EU suffers from the consequences of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Speaking at the French National Assembly on Monday, Bruno Le Maire said it was unacceptable that Washington "sells its liquefied natural gas at four times the price that it sets for its own industrialists."

"The conflict in Ukraine must not end in American economic domination and a weakening of the EU," he said, adding that "the economic weakening of Europe is not in anyone's interest."

"We must reach a more balanced economic relationship on the energy issue between our American partners and the European continent," Le Maire said.

Prior to the conflict in Ukraine, Russia was the EU's largest gas supplier, responsible for about 45% of the bloc's gas imports.

However, Russia has scaled back the flow of gas to Europe recently, citing Western sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine.

Facing an energy crisis, EU countries have rushed to fill their storage facilities. The level of reserves in underground storages was close to 91% as of Monday, according to Gas Infrastructure Europe.

The storage sites are largely filled by liquefied natural gas (LNG), and are currently at their highest seasonal levels since at least 2016, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. However, LNG imports from overseas cost much more than gas supplied via pipeline from Russia under long-term contracts, and energy prices in the bloc continue to rise.

In France, gas pumps have been running dry as worker's strikes continue in the refineries of the major French oil companies. Some have called for an end to France's membership in the US-led NATO.

The protests and strikes have mounted pressure on the French government, which is already facing discontent among the public over inflation and a high cost of living.

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