Fears as fuel prices hit 99.9p a litre

By Mark HeathHAULIERS and charity bosses voiced their concern for the rural economy last night as fuel prices hurtle towards the £1-a-litre mark.Last week's natural disaster in America's deep south and the ongoing crisis in the Middle East have pushed prices of crude oil sky high - and with them the cost of petrol and diesel.

By Mark Heath

HAULIERS and charity bosses voiced their concern for the rural economy last night as fuel prices hurtle towards the £1-a-litre mark.

Last week's natural disaster in America's deep south and the ongoing crisis in the Middle East have pushed prices of crude oil sky high - and with them the cost of petrol and diesel.

Last month, the average price for a litre of unleaded petrol in East Anglia was 91.2p, while diesel cost 94.9p - both higher than the national average.


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But the East Anglian Daily Times has discovered some garages in the region are charging as much as 97.9p for unleaded, while the price of diesel yesterday at the Q8 station at Weeley was 99.9p.

Ruth Bridger, petrol price analyst for the AA motoring trust, said: “The rise is really being caused by the disaster in the US last week with Hurricane Katrina - that pushed the crude oil prices up.

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“They lost over 50 oil platforms in the gulf and nine of their refineries are completely out of action, which is 10% of their supply.

“They are now looking to try to source fuel from outside the USA - that just puts prices up and demand is already high anyway.

“Supply is keeping up with demand until we get some sort of disruption. Whenever we get any kind of disruption then people get nervous and the price goes up.”

But Ms Bridger stressed: “We won't get to £1 a litre for unleaded petrol for some time to come - crude oil prices have got to get to $80 a barrel and it's not quite $70 yet.”

However, she warned that prices in East Anglia were traditionally higher than the rest of the country - and motorists would feel the pinch in coming months.

“I think East Anglia is higher because there are a lot of remote rural areas. If you've got a lot of big cities you tend to get a lot of competition and bulk buying, whereas a remote petrol station can't buy in bulk and get discounted prices,” said Ms Bridger.

“It's not good news for motorists. A two-car family is paying £27 a month more now than they were in January if they're doing average mileage.

“The average price was 79.7p per litre for unleaded petrol in East Anglia in January - it's an incredible rise and it's all down to the price of crude oil.”

Pete Butler, Road Haulage Association senior area manager for the southern and eastern region, said the price of diesel had gone up by 7p since March - and a 2p rise cost the average haulier an extra £1,840 a month.

“It depends on the size of the fleet, but it gives you an idea. Price rises have a huge impact - because of fuel costs some hauliers are even doing a review of their rates quarterly instead of annually,” he said.

“At the end of the day the people who are suffering are me and you. If the major retailers are having to foot the bill then they pass it on to us. It's horrendous.”

“People are going out of business because they just can't afford the diesel. Their customers are unwilling to foot the bill so they are having to take on the cost, but it can't go on forever.

“Small companies especially are really feeling the pinch - more people will be forced out of business. A lot of foreign hauliers get fuel rebates, but we get none.

“What we need is for Chancellor Gordon Brown to get off his bottom, take out fuel duty completely and replace it with VAT so at least we can claim it back.”

Dr Wil Gibson, chief executive of rural charity Suffolk ACRE, said the huge fuel price rises would hit the region hard.

“It will be a problem because people in rural areas are particularly reliant on cars. We know that the rural economy in Suffolk is large and low-paid so those on low incomes who are dependent on cars are going to be doubly hit,” he said.

“The price of petrol is hitting £1 a litre and that's serious money. Suffolk ACRE has argued that the Government should make a choice between an environmental tax on petrol or reduce or replace the road tax.

“At the moment we are paying heavily for petrol and also for road tax, which isn't fair.”

mark.heath@eadt.co.uk

GARAGE UNLEADED DIESEL

Haynings, Framlingham 97.9p 99.9p

Solar, Felixstowe 97.9p 98.9p

Tesco, Newmarket 96.9p 97.9p

Hammonds, Halesworth 94.9p 96.9p

Tesco, Stowmarket 94.5p 96.9p

Tesco, Sudbury 94.5p 96.9p

Jet, Bury St Edmunds 93.9p 97.9p

Shell, Clacton 93.9p 96.9p

BP, Rivenhall 92.9p 96.9p

Morrison's, Ipswich 91.9p 94.9p

Morrison's, Harwich 91.9p 94.9p

Asda, Colchester 89.9p 92.9p

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