Region braced for petrol protests
AN MP has called for a full review of UK energy policy as fears of a nationwide fuel shortage gather pace.Bernard Jenkin, MP for North Essex, made his comments as some lorry drivers in East Anglia prepare to protest tomorrow at the amount of tax levied on petrol and diesel.
By Roddy Ashworth
AN MP has called for a full review of UK energy policy as fears of a nationwide fuel shortage gather pace.
Bernard Jenkin, MP for North Essex, made his comments as some lorry drivers in East Anglia prepare to protest tomorrow at the amount of tax levied on petrol and diesel.
And yesterday one Essex-based haulier said he would be prepared to blockade supplies until the Government agreed to lower the cost of fuel.
Ray Holloway, director of the Petrol Retailers Association, said there had been some instances of panic buying of fuel yesterday, but said the situation “did not compare” with anything from 2000.
His remarks were made as some petrol stations warned they would run out of fuel tomorrow or before if demand continued at the same rate as this morning.
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Protesters from the Fuel Lobby have given ministers until today to meet them or face three days of demonstrations starting on Wednesday.
But Conservative Mr Jenkin, Shadow Minister for Energy, said it was time for the Government to re-asses its approach not only towards oil but also renewable, nuclear and non-carbon fuels.
Stressing he did not support the tactic of supply blockages, he said: “We have the highest fuel tax in Europe. We have always said that should be addressed and was unfair.
“If there is a crisis, it is of the Government's own making. There has been a huge increase in public spending at a time when the economy is not growing very fast.”
He added: “I think this demonstrates the need for a proper energy review - petrol prices and gas prices are very high, and it is time to have a debate on other sources.”
Fuel prices in the UK have soared in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the US where many refineries were knocked out by the storm.
Some independent garages in East Anglia have been forced to put up the price of a litre of fuel to as much as £1.06.
Andrew Spence, spokesman for the Fuel Lobby, claimed that panic buying was being exacerbated by claims that the Government may introduce controls on purchasing.
He said: “One meeting, that is all we want. We want one meeting with somebody who can really put the figures together and make a difference and from there they will avert Wednesday.
“Let's give dialogue a chance. Basically, they have got 24 hours to get to me.”
The Fuel Lobby is calling on the public to “attend” oil refineries from 6am on Wednesday to begin their protests.
A motorway go-slow is also planned for the M4 and campaigners have revealed that the port of Dover could be targeted.
Yesterday Steve Prince, owner of haulage firm Steve Prince Transport in Cressing, Braintree, said he was planning to get involved in the protests.
“I want to be part of it. I would definitely be prepared to blockade. Something has to be done - and it should be done properly this time. Last time it was only two or three days.
“I have had a 20p per litre increase in the price of diesel since June. The eastern Europeans bring it over at 50p a litre, and the drivers get paid half the wage.
“We are not wanting to disrupt people, but we need to get the prices right.”
Mr Prince said that his 22 lorries travelled around 18,000 miles each week and on average used between eight to 10 miles to the gallon.
Paul Newton, chair of the East Anglian Hauliers Group, declined to comment on the matter but Chris Wright, regional director of the Road Haulage Association in the southern and eastern region, said it was not part of any demonstrations.
But last night a spokesman for the AA motoring trust yesterday advised the public not to cause a “panic and crisis” as there had been in 2000.
He said: “We understand that there are going to be protests rather than blockades.
“Protests are fine as everybody has the right to protest. But if it turns into blockades any sympathy will evaporate as it will create shortages and push up prices of petrol and diesel.
“We strongly urge people not to panic-buy as it aggravates and causes fuel shortages.”