Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Petrol (reprise)

So, it actually happened. Driving back on the A14 after a weekend away, I passed a petrol station selling diesel at £1.01 a litre. Unlike a few years ago when petrol hit 84p and it felt like the world was about to end, this landmark was met with astonishing apathy. There were protests but only small ones, and no blockades. Yes, there were shortages of petrol, but only because everyone suddenly decided to fill up “just in case”.

I overheard a couple of people at work saying they’d filled their cars up with petrol ahead of the protests and were shocked how much it cost. This made me laugh. Firstly, it was clear that neither of them ever filled their cars up normally, something I just can’t understand. Secondly, they were amazed that it cost them over £60. You can’t physically fit £30 of petrol into my car let alone £60, so I’m guessing they drive gas-guzzling monster cars quite unlike my lovely 45mpg ultra-nippy Ford Fiesta. And finally, because I didn’t fill my car up but waited a week after which the price came down again. I have to say I felt rather smug.

But what’s really amazing is just how little difference £1 a litre has made. You still see 4x4s on the road making short trips into town to go shopping or take the kids to school. You still see 90% of cars on the way to work with just one person in them (including mine.)

If high prices are the economy’s way of sending us a message, it’s clear that we just don’t get it!

Footnote: for those of you in the US, £1.01 a litre is equivalent to $6.50 a gallon in US prices. However standard unleaded in the UK is 95 octane compared with 87 in the US so it's not really a fair comparison. £1.01 was the highest price I saw; at the place I go to, apart from a week or so at 94p, the price of unleaded hasn't ever gone over 90p.

Originally posted 2005-09-30


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