Petrol pumps in France shut down as a result of pension protests. A petroleum industry spokesperson tells Channel 4 News that petrol businesses are losing 1m euros a day because of the blockade.

Fuel tankers queue up as French pension protests continue

French government ministers stressed that the country had plenty of fuel and that airports have ample supply, as the country approached its second week of fuel protests.

Meanwhile, truck drivers staged go-slow operations on highways, rail strikes intensified and petrol stations ran out of fuel today as the protests gathered pace ahead of tomorrow's Senate vote on an unpopular pension overhaul.

"The situation is critical. Anyone looking for diesel in the Paris and Nantes regions will have problems." Exxon Mobil spokeswoman

Government reassurance
The government, which has stood firm on President Nicolas Sarkozy's plan to raise the retirement age through months of protests, assured the public that infrastructure would not freeze up despite a week-long strike at refineries that dried up supplies at hundreds of the roughly 12,500 petrol stations nationwide.

France's supermarket chains account for about 60 per cent of car fuel sales and an industry association representing the bulk of those outlets said between 500 and 1,000 stations were either empty, out of one fuel or other, or seeking fresh supplies.

'Situation critical'
"The situation is critical," a spokeswoman at Exxon Mobil said. "Anyone looking for diesel in the Paris and Nantes regions will have problems," she said.

Tomorrow will be the sixth day of major weekday protests and work stoppages called by national labour union confederations since June.

It began last week when unions at railways and refineries began open-ended industrial action, joined now by truck drivers and delivery workers.

'Just a bystander'
A spokesperson for French petroleum lobby organisation UFIP described how the industry was an just a bystander in a dispute between the government and the unions. He said the industry is losing 1m euros a day.

"The French government has taken the decision that the country is not to be blocked, but we as a Federation can’t do much about it."

He said that in normal circumstances, there would be enough oil for five to ten days supply.

Demand up
But he said blockades aimed at tankers moving oil around the country may affect distribution and added that much depends on the way that consumers behave. “Demand in Paris has increased by 50 per cent in the past week," he said.

The spokesman said that tomorrow would be a crucial day in the stand-off as the Senate vote takes place, but he added that it was difficult to predict what happens next.