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 101.

    Why do they seem disappointed? This is awesome news, finally a reduction in fuel consumption might assist in the fight against climate change and aid in mitigation. It is time to move to cleaner energy and stop polluting the environment!

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    It is the by-product of our use of carbon fuels not their depletion that is a factoral cause in global warming. It is no more than good old fashioned greed, government and corporate driving the artificial price up beyond the use of many. Certainly no-one I know know will drive "casually" to the shops. It harks back to days of old when a trip to the seaside was an event to be saved for all year.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    Significantly dropping fuel duty would get us out of recession overnight. It's not a fair tax anyway, the poorest people pay the same as the richest.

  • Comment number 98.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    Everyone knows that they might lose their job next week, thanks to the ConDem lunatics. So all those trips to shopping centres to look at new TV's are gone, all those weekend breaks are gone, all those visits to garden centres and DIY shops are gone. It's not that we can't DRIVE under this government, it's that we can't LIVE; certainly not the consumer lifestyles most of us want to live anyway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    Not rocket science, is it. Hike taxes and prices on fuel to generate more revenue and then watch as sales decline sharply - meanning less money going to the Exchequer than before! Keep hoping Cameron and Osborne will emerge from the parallel universe they inhabit - but doesn't seem likely.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    To cut my petrol bill I bought a second car, it sounds nuts, but the family car was costing ~£250 in petrol alone, but was mostly just one or two people in it, so I bought a second-hand small car for ~£3K, get 45 to 55 mpg, and save £120 to £130 a month in petrol costs. Four months later my neighbour just did exactly the same.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    a) Oil company takes 40% of what we pay, to get the stuff out of the ground, refine and transport it - Profit c. 7-8p per litre
    b) Govt. takes 60% of what we pay for doing hee-haw - Profit c. 88p

    Who do you think is moaning about this the most then?

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    Fuel prices are high because it is the Governments policy to price people off the road.

    For the first time in my life I am unable to go to some places I would like to go to because of the price of fuel.

    I shall remember this when the next election comes, and I ALWAYS vote.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    Tax something to extreme in an economy where people have less money to spend. They buy much less of it. Tax revenue falls.
    Who'd have thunk it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    Don't worry they will bring in more Toll charges on our roads. Rip Off!

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    Governments own these petrol companies, of course its going to get messy. Its too expensive, the rise in prices over the last few years is crazy

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    I do hope that the Oil Industry is reading these comments.

    I was so incensed by the huge hike in prices of the last few years, I have made a big effort to reduce the amount of travel done by car. I moved close to work. My next move is to buy a car that has a multi-fuel engine.

    Both the government and the Oil companies make massive profits so in my view, the current prices reflect pure GREED.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    Could this be in any way linked to the increase in electric car sales? More economical newer cars? surely this is good news yet a negative story? oh and 'despite falling petrol prices' pahahah

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

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

    Why did I ever think that "privatisation" could do that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    And the lesson is: The more you tax people the less they spend and the more they retrench whih ofcourse affects overall the UK economy.
    Now let us commission an enquiry with a high ranking civil servant and an army of consultants to proves this point after 5 yar of studies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    So, less fuel bought = reduced less tax income to the Govt.

    If it continues I wonder where we'll be taxed next to recoup the drop in revenue?

    Am I being too cynical?

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    I'm confused. Aren't we meant to be cutting our emissions to save the planet? Why is this being reported as bad news? Totally predictable the AA would wail about it, so who cares what they say?

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    When you hammer your population, when you batter them to the point of desperation and poverty. The only thing they can do is abstain and do without. Where I live, fuel hasn't gotten cheaper, it has grown more expensive every year to the point where we don't use the car unless we have no choice. Though no one admits it, lowering the duty/tax would help the economy by making it affordable to live.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    Cars make too much CO2. Tax CO2 emissions. People buy cars that make less CO2. Government whines at reducing tax receipts and looks to charge more a different way. Cars using too much fuel. Tax fuel. People buy fuel efficient car. Government whines at reducing tax receipts and looks to charge more a different way.

    Spot the pattern. Know they enemy.


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