How will the post-Harvey petrol price hike affect the UK?

By Nick Wagstaff
News entry dated 06th Sep 2017

The RAC has warned that the UK could see petrol prices rise above those of diesel in the next few days and weeks as a result of the disruption caused by Hurricane Harvey in the main oil-producing regions of the US. It is predicting that the price of unleaded could rise by as much as 4 pence per litre, taking average prices above the 121 pence mark.

This kind of price hasn’t been seen since December 2014. It is due to one-quarter of the oil refining capacity of America being offline due to the devastation caused by the hurricane. Added to that, demand in the US for petrol has increased, which can also drive up prices.

Average prices

According to RAC spokesman Pete Williams, these issues are already affecting the forecourts in the UK. The average price of petrol stood at 117.29 pence per litre at the end of August, while the diesel price was 118.14 pence. However, this is likely to rise over coming days to 121 pence for unleaded and around 118.5 pence for diesel.

This would make it the first time this year that the average price of unleaded would be higher than that of diesel. Experts also think the price is liable to stay at these rates for some time, until the oil industry is able to get back to full production levels.

Seasonal factors

Experts are also quick to point out that the effect of Hurricane Harvey isn’t as severe as that of Hurricane Katrina, which struck over the August bank holiday weekend in 2005. Katrina added 5 pence per litre to the price of petrol within a matter of a few days. The price dropped back down a few days later.

While Katrina destroyed the infrastructure used to create the petrol, Harvey has only caused infrastructure to be shut down temporarily.

Prices were already rising in August due to seasonal factors and a general increase in the price of a barrel of crude oil, which reached £40 a barrel by the end of the month. In the US, demand for petrol would also be higher than normal due to the Labor Day weekend.

The crude oil price per barrel on the 6th September 2017 was at 48.88 per barrel.

 

Hurricane Harvey wrecks Valero fuel station.

(Credit – Gas Station Damages, US Dept. of Defense)

 

How to avoid the increases

There are things that you can do the avoid the increases as much as possible. For starters, use the PetrolPrices service to find out where in your area has the cheapest fuel. This is often the supermarkets.  Be sure to avoid places that are more expensive – motorway services are usually the priciest places to fill up. If you’re taking a long trip, remember to fill up at your local supermarket station before you set off.

In addition, regular maintenance can help keep your car working in top condition, which can help minimize petrol consumption. Small touches, such as having properly inflated tyres, wheels that are aligned and regularly servicing spark plugs and filters, can help the car run at peak efficiency and thus use less fuel.

Even reducing what you leave in the car can help it run better and use less fuel. If you’re just driving to the shops or around town, look at what is in the boot and see if there is anything you can leave behind. According to the RAC, you can save around 2% of fuel for every 50kg you remove from the car. Don’t leave behind essentials such as safety equipment, but look at what else you carry around and might not need.

Have you already seen the affects of Hurricane Harvey at the pumps? What tactics do you use to reduce your fuel spend? Let us know by leaving a comment.

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