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Total criticises palm oil tax move, says plant survival at stake

PARIS, Nov 24 (Reuters) - Total's Chief Executive Patrick Pouyanne on Sunday criticised the French parliament's decision on Nov. 15 to remove tax breaks on palm oil in biofuels, saying the survival of its biorefinery in southern France was at stake.

The parliament voted against a government-backed proposal to delay until 2026 the end of palm oil's tax advantages, that would have given companies like Total more time to phase out the use of palm oil in biofuels.

Total invested 300 million euros ($330.66 million) to convert its La Mede facility from a crude oil refinery into a biofuel plant, saving 250 jobs.

"Once the investments are finished the rules are changed," Pouyanne told LCI television.

"I wish now that we find the economic framework. I hope it will be found because, if not, unfortunately, the economic survival of this plant will be at stake," he added.

The French company will produce biofuels without palm oil for the French market and export its palm oil-based biofuels outside the country, Pouyanne said, citing Germany and Belgium.

Environmentalists say that using palm oil in biofuel adds to deforestation in tropical countries and contributes to the destruction of habitat for endangered species such as orangutans.

($1 = 0.9073 euros) (Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide, Bate Felix and Elizabeth Pineau. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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