Watch: Petrol retailers warn of record prices at the pumps within days
Motorists will be paying more than ever to fill up the tank by the end of October, according to petrol station owners, prompting a row over the cause of sky-high prices at the pumps.
The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) predicted all-time highs set in April 2012 – of 142p per litre for petrol and 148p for diesel – would be surpassed by the end of October.
Average prices had hit 141.35p and 144.84p respectively by Tuesday, according to Experian Catalist UK.
Forecourt prices have risen sharply over the past month, during which a driver shortage caused supply problems leading to panic-buying that resulted in filling stations across the country running out of fuel.
Average petrol prices were 134.9p per litre in September, compared with 113.3p per litre in the same month a year earlier, according to the latest Office for National Statistics inflation figures published on Wednesday.
Brian Madderson, the chair of the forecourt owners’ trade body, said the “primary reason” for increased costs at the pump was the rising oil price, which has doubled within 12 months, hitting a three-year high of $85 for Brent crude this week.
The PRA attributed this to the Opec group of oil-rich countries and Russian cutting back on production, just as a global economic rebound from Covid-19 stokes greater demand for fuel.
Motorists’ organisations acknowledged the effect of global oil markets but said petrol station owners were also using it as an excuse to hide their own role.
The RAC fuel spokesperson, Simon Williams, said fuel prices appeared to be on an “unavoidable journey” to record highs.
He said the oil price was “primarily” behind the extra costs for motorists but accused petrol retailers of “taking a bigger cut on petrol than they normally do at around 8p a litre which is a further blow to drivers”.
Watch: Net zero strategy - Government plans will 'support up to 440,000 jobs', minister says - as plans to end sale of new petrol and diesel cars revealed
He said the government should temporarily reduce VAT on fuel but said any cut in 58p-per-litre fuel duty would simply be pocketed by fuel retailers. “We strongly urge retailers not to contribute further to the pump price rise,” he said.
Luke Bosdet, a fuel spokesperson for the AA, pointed to figures indicating that petrol retailers’ margins have crept up since the onset of the pandemic.
He said they passed on only half of their savings when global oil prices crashed in spring 2020 but that petrol prices were “now rising faster than they should”.
“The sooner drivers can switch to EVs [electric vehicles], charge from home and get shot of the road fuel industry the better,” he said.
Rising fuel costs come amid concern that inflationary pressures will add to household costs.