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Fuel shortage ‘crisis’

On 23 September 2021 BP said it would have to temporarily close a small number of road fuel filling stations due to a shortage of tanker drivers. Despite statements from Government and the retailers that there was no shortage of fuel long queues formed at stations across the country in what was described as ‘panic buying’. The increase in demand led to many stations running out of fuel.

Average road fuel prices increased during this period, but the increase was 1-2 pence per litre over the fortnight to 4 October.

On 7 October new ‘experimental statistics’ on road fuel sales, deliveries and stock levels were published by the Government. These show a spike in sales between 23 and 29 September, followed by a slump (as filling stations ran out of fuel). Average stock levels were around 40% in early September and fell gradually to 33% immediately before the ‘crisis’ to a low 15-16% over the weekend of 25-26 September. They have subsequently increased to 25% on 3 October.

This note looks at trends in the price of petrol and diesel at the pump and before tax, possible reasons for the gap in prices between the two fuels and compares prices and taxes in different countries.

Trends in the pump and pre-tax price of road fuel and other petroleum products are given in DBEIS’s Collection of road fuel and other petroleum product price statistics publication. The AA’s Fuel Price Reports have daily national average prices. www.petrolprices.com gives daily average prices and local figures. The Hydrocarbon Oils Bulletin from HMRC includes details of changes in duty rates and revenues. The European Commission’s Oil Bulletin gives a weekly comparison of pump and pre-tax prices of fuels across the EU. The International Energy Agency’s Monthly Oil Prices shows trends in fuel prices for the largest OECD economies. Their Oil Market Report gives background to changes in oil and product prices.

An appendix to this note looks at the real cost of petrol since 1920 and the real value of duty and VAT per litre. Prices in January 2012 were just above their earlier post second world war high in real terms -set during the Suez crisis- but still below the real prices charged in 1920 when petrol pumps were first introduced. The total tax on a litre of petrol peaked in early 2010; the latest figure is around 32% below this peak.


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