Opinion: shortages and rising prices mean the fuel crisis has some way to run yet

Updated on 06 October 2021 | 4 Comments

There’s more to the fuel crisis than the shortages that have made filling up more difficult, writes John Fitzsimons.

By complete fluke, I have so far managed to avoid the fuel crisis.

I filled up the day before the leaked BP report warning of shortages triggered the rush on fuel courts, and as we only use the car sparingly so far I haven’t had to brave the queues.

The queues have been considerable though, and at least in my neck of the woods they appear to be going nowhere, with most of the petrol stations around me are closed.

The Government has suggested that things are now settling down, however, with only the South East ‒ where I happen to live ‒ still struggling to meet driver demand.

But even once the queues are gone, we shouldn't expect things to go back to the way they were before.

Note: in no way are we speculating that there will be further fuel shortages and you should only visit a fuel station if you genuinely need to fill up. 

Rising pump prices

It’s worth noting that the price we pay at the pump for our fuel had already been increasing sharply, even before the shortages took hold.

The latest fuel watch data from RAC found that in September the price of a litre of unleaded went up by 1.5p to 136.83p, while a litre of diesel jumped 2.5p to 139.25p. As a result, petrol is now 22p a litre more expensive than a year ago, while diesel costs an extra 21p a litre.

It means that filling up a 55-litre family car costs around £12 more than it did a year ago.

That’s a stark rise, and it means that average prices for both are now at levels last seen eight years ago, and not far off the all-time highs of 142.48p for petrol and 147.93p for diesel registered in April 2012.

In other words, a couple of weeks ago when filling up was entirely straightforward, it was already costing us an absolute packet.

Read: the best fuel loyalty schemes

More price hikes on the way

Unsurprisingly, the current shortages are only pushing prices up further. 

In September, the price of a barrel of oil moved from around $71.29 to $78.88. #

It has now breached the $80 mark, the first time it’s done so in three years. Some fuel analysts have suggested that the price rises aren’t done there, with barrel prices possibly even reaching $90 by the end of the year.

That will inevitably have a knock on effect on the prices we pay at the pump too, with the RAC speculating the average price of a litre of unleaded would hit a new record high of 143p.

We’ve already seen petrol prices rise in 10 out of the last 12 months, and it seems there is yet more pain at the pump ahead.

Looking to alternatives

Given the issues drivers have had with the cost of fuel, even before the shortages hit, it’s perhaps not a huge surprise that electric and hybrid vehicles have proved so in demand from motorists tempted to switch cars.

Indeed, the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders for September show that sales of new battery electric vehicles, hybrids and plug-in hybrids have rocketed by an incredible 137% year-on-year.

The reality is that plenty of motorists have recognised the direction of travel here.

New petrol and diesel motors are to be banned from sale by the end of the decade, so drivers are going to have to switch over at some point ‒ why not do it now, when fuel is becoming painfully expensive as well as a hassle to find?

Making your fuel last

Of course, that isn’t an option for everyone. I’m not exactly rushing down to my local Tesla dealer anytime soon, which means making the fuel I do have last longer in the hopes that my local garages will be full again by the time I need to fill up.

Thankfully there are plenty of simple things you can do which will improve your fuel efficiency.

For example, air conditioning uses an awful lot of fuel, so keeping it off unless it’s absolutely necessary is a wise move. Similarly, check your tyre pressure ‒ if your tyres are underinflated, it can mean you end up using more fuel during your journey.

The way that you drive is also a factor here. Harsh braking is not just bad for your brake pads, it also has an impact on your fuel use, as does driving in the wrong gear. 

The current shortage may be almost over for most drivers across the country, but the underlying issues behind it have gone nowhere. Unfortunately, there’s plenty of road left in this particular saga.



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