If you haven’t seen the news about the on-going fuel problems, then you’ve probably been living under a rock. As always, petrol prices are a hot topic and the recent news of a potential strike by tanker drivers has led the government to say some daft things – apparently Francis Maude, Cabinet Minister, didn’t know how big a jerrycan actually was when he advised citizens to store some petrol at home ‘just in case’ – and led the rest of us start to panic a little. However, fuel prices and petrol panics have been happening in the UK for several years now, and are always a source of political antagonism.
The current problem is a compounded one of record highs in petrol prices and the potential for strike action by tanker drivers as part of Unite, the largest union in the UK. The strike, although reported in popular media as being solely about pay, is said by Unite and other sources to be focused on the working conditions for truck and tanker drivers, many of whom are exposed to poor health and safety standards and a ‘turn and burn’ culture created by very tight delivery deadlines.
Potential strike action was voted for by over 60% of union members across seven different delivery companies, including BP.
However, with the threat of strike action looming on the horizon, the panic-buying that we have so clearly been advised not to take part in is also as much to do with the cost of petrol as the potential for losing access to petrol. If there is strike action, not only will there be less petrol resources on the forecourts, but the price could potentially go up as it becomes a rare commodity.
Petrol prices over the last 5 or 6 years have fluctuated dramatically, with a huge dip in prices at the beginning of 2009, but they have generally been climbing for a significant number of years; petrol prices last year were around twice what they were in 1998. Political and social movements across the world impact the price of petrol more than you would expect – wars, invasions, new leaderships, changes in political system and, of course, availability of delivery all influence the price of petrol.
As the current government advises citizens not to queue on the forecourts or panic-buy petrol, there is a hint of previous years’ activities where political motivation to buy – or not buy – petrol at specific times was felt across the country.
The fuel price escalator, introduced by the Conservative government in 1993 and continued – and increased – by the Labour government, was one of the contributing factors in making petrol in the UK in 2000 the most expensive in Europe, and the termination of the fuel price escalator is thought to have come about partly due to the fuel protests around the same time.These protests originally came, in the same vein as the potential strike action now, from lorry drivers who were protesting against rising fuel prices.
The then-shadow Conservative government encouraged a day of protest called ‘Dump the Pumps’ in July 2000, aiming to draw attention to the increase in petrol prices under Labour. By September, 3,000 petrol stations across the UK were reported to be out of fuel, and after a few days the situation was under control with the government marking out designated petrol stations to receive key fuel supplies. While it’s unlikely that protests will erupt around the petrol stations regarding the current situation, the shadow Labour government has said that Conservative ministers are blowing the situation out of proportion, and are “creating a crisis out of a serious concern”.
Here at Motors.co.uk petrol prices and debates around the availability of fuel are very important to us – especially as, with some second hand cars, fuel efficiency might not be as good as it is in newer models. This means that higher prices and decreased availability of petrol can affect used car owners dramatically. What are your opinions on the potential strike action and high petrol prices? Have you been queuing for petrol or do you think we all need to calm down? Make sure you let us know over on our Facebook page.