Easter 2012 saw people panic buying petrol and diesel at the pumps. The country was turned upside down as people queued for hours to get a little bit of fuel. But what caused all of this? Who was really to blame for all the issues? And what was the end result?
The Story Behind the Event
Fuel tanker drivers stated that they are not happy with their working conditions and pay packages. Nothing new there, nobody in the UK is happy with their pay packages or working conditions. However, credit to the tanker drivers, they said that they were now to the point that they were tired of complaining about it and wanted to do something. Hence, they threatened with a strike, planned over Easter.
So What Caused the Panic Buying?
The unions were very quick to reassure the public: the strike had not received a definite go ahead yet, and if it did, they would be obliged by law to give seven days notice, plenty of time for petrol stations to fill up and drivers to purchase sufficient fuel for two days of strikes. So what went wrong?
A number of things went wrong, actually. The first thing was a report on what is happening to petrol station franchises all over the UK. As it turns out, very few of them are able to afford to fill their petrol containers completely. In fact, they only fill them to 25%. This caused motorists to suddenly realise that if just a few people started panic buying, there would be no petrol left. Hence, they became the first panic buyers.
This wasn’t the biggest issue, however. The biggest issue was Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, advising people to start panic buying. His exact words are suddenly in dispute, but he certainly made statements suggesting that people should buy jerry cans of fuels and keep their tanks at least 75% full at all times.
This lead to the horrible mauling of one woman, whose jerry can of fuel exploded in her face. It led to people who normally put £20 worth of fuel at most in their tanks to suddenly fill up. It led to old age pensioners coming to petrol stations with jam jars, just in case.
So Who Won?
The big question is who was the winner? Did the people that were involved in the panic buying win because they didn’t run out of fuel? After all, there were quite a number of petrol stations who did run out of fuel, meaning certain drivers missed out. The people who did manage to get some fuel didn’t have to fuel up again for quite a while, so perhaps they won?
Consider this alternative, however. Because of the panic buying, fuel prices saw a huge increase, reaching new record levels. Now that the “crisis” has ended, fuel prices have come back down, but they miraculously seem to be slightly higher than what they were before the whole issue came to light. Now consider, for a moment, the amount of taxes that are paid on fuel. For every litre of petrol or diesel you buy, you pay income tax on the money you use to pay for it, VAT and fuel duty. This goes straight into the coffers of the government. So who really won here? In my humble opinion, the treacherous government that always wins and the franchise owners who, frankly, did deserve a little break.
Unfortunately, you can’t shop around for fuel prices like you can with car insurance. However, you can save money if you compare car insurance, which can be useful if you find yourself trapped in the whacky races towards the next fuel dispute.