Petrol prices and blood-pressure on the rise again

Why are we letting our government get away with charging so much tax on petrol and diesel fuels? Just when we get our heads around accepting the injustice that was £1.00 per litre of petrol, in the last two months we have been viciously assaulted on the forecourt with another £0.20p tax added per litre. Supposedly the government thought a surreptitious 2 pence added today and 4 pence tomorrow would go unnoticed by the subdued motorist?

Last month alone petrol prices rose by 4.5 pence per litre (yes you read that correctly) and diesel outdid them by rising by 6.8p per litre. Now, my exasperated reader, may we add fuel to the fire (excuse the pun), by announcing that the price of petrol is expected to rise incrementally for at least eight years according to experts, with an average of £1.31 per litre forecast within the next few months – even climbing as high as £1.46 in the next two years. So very little chance of a dip in price as we were all hoping for then!

Last month, oil hit a new record high of more than $130 a barrel – almost double the cost last year. It has risen six-fold since 2002 and the recent increase is thought to be the biggest since the oil crisis of the 1970s. In fact Goldman Sachs, one of the world’s most influential investment banks, is advising its clients – including airlines and haulage firms – to buy oil supplies now for delivery as far ahead as eight years to insulate themselves from further increases. This move has led to the warning that petrol prices will stay at record levels for much of the next decade.

Statistics have recently shown that the public are now slowly “downsizing” their vehicles due to fuel costs for family cars being so high, with some family cars quaffing over £70 on an average trip to the petrol station. A year ago you may have laughed at such a notion but these days fuel prices are so high many families are left with no option.

These car ownership statistics led Edmund King, the president of the AA, to comment last month on the urgent actions our Government need to address in scrapping future motoring tax rises. He said: “For the consumer it is very worrying that you have got financiers taking a punt on the price of oil which then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is now affecting the daily lives of millions of people and ministers should be looking at a range of options to deal with the rising cost of petrol.”

It may all seem doom and gloom but you have to ask yourself if any good can come out of the enormous surge in petrol prices? Well believe it or not, the answer is yes. Now don’t expect any McGuyver ideas here – you’re not going to instantly save thousands of pounds in fuel costs. I’m referring to the long-term economy in general. In order for the way in which we drive our vehicles to change, first there must be a giant leap in motoring engineering. As each month passes we see more and more technology reports on emerging cost-saving, eco-friendly cars. This engineering breakthrough has really infiltrated the public mindset this year as oil prices have sky-rocketed. And yes, all of sudden a car running on vegetable oil sounds like a great idea. And what’s that? It’s just as fast as a petrol car? Blimey! How technology can gain momentum when there is an incentive in store. Even Prince Charles has converted his vintage Aston Martin to run on 100 per cent bioethanol fuel distilled from surplus British wine! A small but symbolic gesture!

So if we all ran out of petrol tomorrow (and this could well happen one day), the hard work has already been done. The big car companies are all fighting right now for the best non-petrol vehicle design on the road. A focus on new discoveries and the hunt for fuel substitutes will eventually mean lower energy prices.

While all of this is embraced with open arms, in the meantime our altruistic Chancellor, Alistair Darling, is planning to bring in a 2 pence rise in fuel duty this Autumn and an increase in vehicle excise duty next year, which means some popular family cars will see their road tax bills double. The Treasury will hit the jackpot with a windfall of more than £1 billion from the higher oil price.

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