Diesel shortage UK: is there a diesel shortage, red diesel ban explained – and prices

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Rising prices, changes in regulations for “red diesel”, Russia, Ukraine – all this affects supply

Drivers in parts of England have reported diesel shortages as fuel stops.

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The areas hardest hit by diesel shortages are in the south-east of England, but motorists have reported being unable to find diesel at service stations in regions such as Birmingham, Black Country, Worcestershire and Staffordshire.

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Now motorists are reporting similar scenes at gas pumps across the country, but this time diesel seems to be the hot commodity.

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Non-diesel gas stations have started putting up signs warning motorists of the lack of supplies to prevent long queues from forming.

But why is there a shortage and how might it affect things like the food supply?

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Here’s everything you need to know about it.

Why is there a shortage of diesel?

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Despite a fuel tax cut in March, drivers have been hit by the biggest monthly hike in pump prices on record, according to a new analysis.

The RAC said the average cost of a liter of diesel at petrol stations in the UK rose by 22.1p to stand at 177.3p at the end of March, the biggest monthly increase in pump prices on record.

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The RAC said the increase in pump prices was due to rising wholesale costs caused by the war in Ukraine and drivers would have been hit by even higher prices had it not been for the fuel tax cut.

Petrol and diesel prices displayed outside a BP petrol station on March 31, 2022 (Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

But while rising prices are to blame for perceived fuel shortages, as drivers try to fill up before costs continue to rise, they’re only part of the problem.

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Activists from the Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion groups blocked the street in the early hours of April 1.

The protesters were taped to streets around 4am, hung from bamboo tripods and tied to oil drums and to each other.

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ExxonMobil UK, one of the country’s largest privately owned underground oil pipeline distribution networks, said it closed three of its terminals as a result.

This impacted the availability of diesel at pumps as fuel deliveries were delayed.

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How does Ukraine affect supply?

As we have seen in almost every other area of ​​daily life, the situation in Ukraine also affects supply.

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As a result of the sanctions imposed on Russia for illegally invading its neighbors, Russian-owned or Russian-flagged ships are being banned from British ports.

That’s all well and good, but although the UK government has pledged to stop importing Russian diesel by the end of the year, deliveries will continue until then.

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Russia supplies nearly a fifth of Britain’s diesel fuel, but the inability of Russian ships to dock makes fuel deliveries a logistical nightmare.

On March 5, dockers in Cheshire refused to offload Russian oil being transported by a German-flagged ship (Photo: LINDSEY PARNABY/AFP via Getty Images)

Is there a global shortage of diesel?

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But while all of this has impacted the accessibility of diesel, global demand for the fuel was already soaring before the crisis in Ukraine.

Increasing demand after lockdown meant many suppliers were unable to keep up with the sudden increase in diesel consumption.

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“Inventory levels of many fuels are relatively low, but diesel in particular is in Europe, the US and also in Asia,” said Neil Crosby, Senior Oil Analyst at OilX. said the BBC.

“The demand for diesel was very strong up until the crisis, which also contributed to it. There is just an imbalance between supply and demand.”

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How can I check if my gas station has diesel?

One way to check if a gas station has good service is to check Google Maps. Search for petrol stations near you and then click on them. This shows you how busy they are.

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If a station has a large current time bar, it means it is busy or above average and likely has fuel in stock. If there is a small bar, it means it is less busy than usual and may be out of fuel.

A handy tool for checking prices is the confused.com online checker.

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Select the type of fuel you want and enter your zip code and you will be shown the cheapest petrol stations in your area.

What is red diesel?

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Red diesel is the term for diesel that is not intended to be used as a fuel for road vehicles – think agricultural or construction vehicles such as tractors, excavators, cranes and some other non-road applications such as boats.

It is taxed at a different rate than diesel used in road vehicles; Diesel destined for road vehicles has a duty rate of 57.95 pence per liter (ppl), while red diesel has an effective rate of just 11.14 ppl.

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While diesel cars can safely run on the fuel, it is against the law to use it in road vehicles.

It is essentially the same as the “white” diesel used in cars and other road vehicles, but is so called because since 1961 it has had to be marked with a red dye to prevent misuse.

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In view of rising fuel costs, farms are increasingly dependent on cost-cutting measures (Photo: DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images)

From April 1, 2022, red diesel became illegal for most vehicles. The change primarily affects companies rather than individual drivers and is intended to encourage the use of more sustainable fuels as part of the UK’s 2050 climate change targets.

But that means those who previously relied on red diesel are now turning to regular fuel to continue running vehicles and machinery, which means more demand at the pumps.

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And those who can still use the fuel commercially will also be hit by sharp price hikes.

For example, a fisherman told the daily mail It is cheaper for him to “crane his boat out of the water, cut off the mast, load it onto a truck and bring it to the gas station and fill it up with white diesel”.

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How could it affect the cost of groceries?

Rising diesel costs, a broader red diesel ban and delivery delays could impact other areas of life as well.

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As diesel is widely used in industry – for example in agriculture – rising costs and more difficult procurement of fuel could mean that farmers are less able to provide essential food.

Fishermen in Shetland, for example, fear rising fuel prices will force them to moor their boats.

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The Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFA) issued an appeal to the government as it said the war in Ukraine had meant the cost of marine diesel on the islands had more than doubled compared to last year.

SFA chairman James Anderson said rising fuel costs meant some crews were considering not going to sea, while others accepted pay cuts or laid crew members off.

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State aid is available in other European countries.

In France, the industry can benefit from a government subsidy that will help with fuel costs, and in Spain the government has pledged to cut taxes at state-owned ports and is offering soft loans to help sectors hit by rising costs .

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