Spring petrol sales decline despite lower forecourt prices

Petrol Petrol prices fell by more than 10p per litre in April to 131.19p at the end of June

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Nearly half a billion fewer litres of petrol and diesel were sold between April and June than during the same period last year, says the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

The reduction came despite a fall in fuel prices during the period.

It came after sales rose at the start of the year when the threat of a tanker drivers' strike saw panic buying.

Motoring organisation the AA said price rises since 2008 have contributed to a "steady decline" in the overall market.

The government figures show that more than 2 billion fewer litres of petrol and diesel were sold compared with the same period in 2008, before the recession.

In the first half of this year, a total of 16.7 billion litres of fuel was sold on forecourts in the UK.

This compares with total sales of nearly 19 billion litres between January and June 2008.

'Fair deal'

In the first three months of this year, meanwhile, there was a rise in petrol sales of almost 120 million litres compared with the same period in 2011.

Demand for fuel shot up at the end of March after ministers urged people to stock up amid threats of a strike by tanker drivers.

But the government rejected claims by retailers their advice had caused panic buying.

Petrol Retailers Association chairman Brian Madderson told BBC Radio 5 liveBreakfast that, during a week of "government-inspired panic buying", sales of petrol "got up to over a 170% of its normal rate".

Start Quote

Price transparency is the way forward - to ensure and show drivers that they are getting a fair deal at the pump”

End Quote Edmund King, AA

"So by the end of March everybody with a car had their tanks full of petrol and, of course, after that, in the second quarter, sales fell off the cliff."

The AA blamed the slump on the fuel industry for "trying to squeeze more money out of shrinking customer demand".

Its president Edmund King acknowledged that panic buying - as well as wet weather - may have played a part in the April-June fall.

"However, petrol prices slumped more than 10p a litre - from the record of 142.48p a litre in mid-April to the low-point of 131.19p at the end of June - and UK drivers began to travel further with lighter evenings, bank holidays and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations," he said.

He added: "While we welcome the fact that new cars have become more fuel-efficient, this goes nowhere near to accounting for the crash in demand over the past three months, and the past five years."

He said the fall in sales since 2008 had to "bring some sense of reality to the fuel market and the government".

"However, we have seen the fuel industry trying to squeeze more money out of shrinking customer demand, as was the case when wholesale diesel was cheaper than petrol in early spring but drivers and businesses were forced to pay 5p a litre more.

"Price transparency is the way forward - to ensure and show drivers that they are getting a fair deal at the pump."

Meanwhile, the AA's head of motoring Paul Watters warned that ministers may have to look elsewhere to make up lost tax revenues.

"We've heard talk of the government finding a real struggle in getting the revenues in that it was expecting and this dramatic drop won't help them one iota," he told BBC Radio 5 live.

"It will make them a bit desperate, perhaps looking towards road pricing again or looking towards squeezing more out of the tax disc that we all pay for."

A spokesman for the Department of Transport has yet to respond to a request for a comment.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    The prices at the pumps fluctuate by a couple of pence but the overall trend has been up, Like most people I only use the car for work now and when I do have to go into town I (reluctantly) use public transport. All down side for the government and the shops, less tax revenue, less spending but all good for me, more exercise, lost a little weight, feel fitter and saved a mint on impulse buys.

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    "The AA said the slump was the fault of the fuel industry..."

    Hang on, isn't selling less fuel a good thing? It means were using up our non-renewal oil resource less quickly, we have less congestion on the roads and probably fewer accidents.

    The comment shows up the AA in its true light - as a pro-car lobby group that wants everyone driving as much as possible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    Let's see some positive sides of this:
    1. Fossil fuel won't last for ever, so using less is good
    2. Walking to school etc instead of riding is healthier- a fitter population
    3. Less traffic emissions = healthier air quality
    4. Lower fuel requirements = less dependence on an unstable Middle East

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    Perhaps the poor weather, yes, additionally I hope we are seeing the first glimpses of the "tipping point" for fossil fuels. Drivers being more aware of driving styles, route choices and, perhaps most importantly, the car they drive.

    It has long been said home energy use can be cut by 40% by good insulation and adopting energy saving practices. Let's hope car owners are trending similarly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    My car engine went bang in July - so I decided to scrap my car - I was so scared of catching buses - and you know - it's THE BEST THING I've ever done - I pay £14 a week for a bus pass and this gets me every where in a 30 mile radius. I am saving £100 a week - I've bought new clothes, new hi-fi - and you know the best thing - this rotten government is getting so much less tax money off me!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    Good news really, transport is a significant source of CO2 and for every billion litres of unburnt fuel there is about 3.5million tonnes less CO2 vented to the atmosphere. In my opinion cars are too convenient anyway with negative effects on individual health and local and global environments. That's not to say they aren't useful, just too convenient.

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    Those giving negative comments should try to take a family of four on the three mile bus trip into town £12, even more for a return, its cheaper to use my car, if the government really wanted us to cut down on fuel consumption public transport would get cheaper, does it ? no, far from it, it goes up all the time

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    The people saying that this is all a good thing must live in wonderful, magical worlds where car travel is unnecessary because of cheap, reliable, plentiful public transport that allows easy inter-city travel for getting to and from work.

    I live on the outskirts of York and work in Bradford... Try doing that on public transport. Easier and cheaper by car. Two car journeys vs 4 buses and 2 trains.

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    159: "Essential", been reading too many bizarre CDO formula, don't start me on so called recent poltical dogma.......

    Actually, if people drive slower, they use less fuel, and save money....
    So why don't they drive slower ?

  • Comment number 192.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    As fuel companies and the gov seee motorists as an easy target it's nice to see people now cutting back enough for someone to notice. For too long have companies treated us as fools, putting prices up straight away but never cutting the same way.
    Just a thougt, what happens to tourist spots if we can't afford to get to them anymore? UK plc needs a fair fuel price to keep it going.

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    I recently spent 3 months in the US and on returning to the UK was shocked at the astronomical prices we are being forced to pay for petrol - at least 3x the price of the states (they're paying less per gallon than we are per litre). I have returned to using public transport for the meantime, only using my car if it's in a car share to save money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    Where are the fuel protestors now ? When petrol hit 80p a litre in 2000 under Labour, the fuel protestors would not shut up.

    Now that petrol is £1.40 a litre under the Tories, the fuel protestors are strangely silent.

    Can anyone offer any theories here ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    Not even a passing mention of fuel tax being the largest part of the price of petrol, and that this might have something to do with the decrease in demand.

    It's good that, even if we won't openly challenge the government about ludicrously high fuel taxes, they are taking less revenue by overtaxing us.

    Time to free ourselves of these punitive tax regimes so we can get on with living and working.

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    The fuel prices have not gone down. Where did they get that from!
    My husband chooses to work from home more or walks to an office closer (although it's not his official 'place of work'). It costs so much to fill up our car now that we only use it when we have to. Although we still need it, we don't just 'pop down to the shops' anymore. We plan our trips to do several errands all at once.

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    High taxes plus job losses reduced hours from full time to part time, less money to pay the bankers for the private pension scheme just come in - it's not really rocket science is it, if people do not work they do not get paid therefore they cannot afford money to go out anywhere

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    I don't understand why the question of reduced sales is taken with such surprise. When the cost of crude oil goes up on the Global Market the effect at the pumps is instant and severe. When crude oil drops severely it takes many days to see any reduction and its usually minimal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    How do you expect me to get to work 25 miles away, with no train or bus services? I would call using the car necessary. You can't put the blame on the people who have no other options, only the people who are controlling what options we have.

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    Lets pat ourselves on the back for having a blossoming motor industry, then lets squeeze as much out of motorists in tax to a point that they cannot afford to drive the cars that we are succesfully producing.
    Government Logic !

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    I sometimes feel like going up to a politician and door knocking their foreheads with "HELLLLLLLLOOOOOOOOOOOO... welcome to the real world...."


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