Why are petrol prices rising? Everything else you need to know

·4-min read
Increased petrol and diesel are seen on a display board at a filling station at Wetherby Services (PA)
Increased petrol and diesel are seen on a display board at a filling station at Wetherby Services (PA)

Petrol and diesel prices are seeing unprecedented highs, with drivers experiencing never-seen-before costs to fill up their vehicles as the cost of living crisis continues.

The hikes are a result of several factors, the effects of which are now being seen internationally.

But, how long will it last, and what has caused the inflated prices? Here’s everything you need to know.

Why are petrol prices rising?

Drivers are being hit by record fuel prices, but there are several ways of reducing your bills (Peter Byrne/PA) (PA Wire)
Drivers are being hit by record fuel prices, but there are several ways of reducing your bills (Peter Byrne/PA) (PA Wire)

Petrol prices are rising across the world, with a number of reasons all combining to cause the hikes.

One of the key reasons fuel prices are rising so high is because they are more in demand, as companies cut ties with Russia following the invasion of Ukraine in February.

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the price of oil crashed as the world shut down, with oil recording negative prices in April 2020 for the first time in history.

However, when global economies began to recover, the price shot up as demand rose sharply. But, suppliers who have struggled to scale back up have failed to meet the demand, pushing up prices.

This week, the price of a barrel of oil was around $120, compared to around $80 in January, prior to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

How much does fuel cost now?

Supermarkets usually charge around 4p per litre below average UK fuel prices (Dominic Lipinski/PA) (PA Archive)
Supermarkets usually charge around 4p per litre below average UK fuel prices (Dominic Lipinski/PA) (PA Archive)

The average cost of a tank of fuel has exceeded £100 for the first time ever, for a typical 55-litre family car.

The average price of a litre of petrol at UK forecourts reached a record 182.3p on Wednesday, according to data firm Experian Catalist. That was an increase of 1.6p compared with the previous day.

It followed a 2.2p jump on Monday - the largest daily increase for 17 years.

Meanwhile, the average price of a litre of diesel on Wednesday was a record 188.1p.

Cabinet Minister Michael Gove warned petrol suppliers not to exploit customers during the crisis.

Speaking to Sky News, the Levelling Up Minister said: “One of the things we do need to do is to make sure that every forecourt, every outlet, is making sure that it doesn’t take advantage of this situation to build up excess profits.

“I think we do need to keep a watch on this and I know that the Competition and Markets Authority and others will always keep an eagle eye in order to make sure we don’t have a situation where companies are taking unfair advantage of consumers.”

Has the Russian invasion of Ukraine affected fuel prices?

A Shell logo at a petrol station (AFP via Getty Images)
A Shell logo at a petrol station (AFP via Getty Images)

Despite oil and fuel prices being high prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, the war has exacerbated the situation, with Russia being one of the world’s largest crude oil exporters, second only to Saudi Arabia.

In an April 1 address, President Biden said: “Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has driven up gas prices and food prices all over the world.”

Russian imports account for just 8 per cent of the total UK oil demand, and the government has said it will fade out imports of Russian oil by the end of the year.

Despite this, the EU is much more reliant on imports of Russian oil, with 27 per cent coming from the country, with leaders agreeing to ban most Russian imports by the end of the year, with the US also announcing a total ban.

This has caused demand from other oil suppliers to rocket, resulting in overall higher prices, including from countries that did not originally get their oil from Russia.

Moreover, at the end of March, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a 5p cut to fuel duty for 12 months, in an effort to give rest bite to motorists struggling to fill up their tanks.

With VAT taken into account, the overall saving came to 6p per litre, with Mr Sunak saying at the time that it amounted to the ‘biggest cut to all fuel duty rates ever’.

Will fuel prices come down?

Fuel prices have hit unprecedented highs (PA Graphics)
Fuel prices have hit unprecedented highs (PA Graphics)

Experts are hopeful that fuel prices will soon start to plateau, following a surprise drop in the wholesale prices this week, however, they believe that the peak is still ‘some way off’.

Between December 2021 and January 2022 was the last time that a decrease in prices was seen, with diesel and unleaded falling from 150.6p to 147.28p and 145.55p.

Commenting on the runaway pump price hikes, RAC spokesman Simon Williams said: “As it stands, the average petrol price at the big four supermarkets, which dominate fuel retailing, is now 173.37p, while diesel is 182.38p. This makes a litre of unleaded more than 7p cheaper at a supermarket, which is significantly above the norm of 4p below the UK average.”

On Wednesday, he added that he believed other supermarkets would increase their prices in order to close the gap, adding: “These are unprecedented times in terms of the accelerating cost of forecourt fuel.”

He continued: “Sadly, it seems we are still some way from the peak. While the average price of diesel is heading towards £2 a litre, the cost of wholesale petrol unexpectedly dropped around 5p a litre on Tuesday. If this price is maintained in the coming days it could stem the flow of daily record petrol prices.”

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