Fuel shortage drives people off roads in Britain

June 17th, 2008 - 2:12 pm ICT by IANS  

By Venkata Vemuri
London, June 17 (IANS) Fuel shortages across Britain have forced people off the roads and left them looking for alternative fuels like vegetable oil as hundreds of petrol pumps have closed down and private stations profiteer by hiking prices. Last week’s strike by hauliers who refused to carry Shell fuel demanding a pay hike has led to the closure of over 600 petrol pumps in the country, mostly in the south-west and Wales.

More than 600 fuel tanker drivers who supply Shell petrol stations are due to return to work later Tuesday. It could take until the end of the week for supplies to return to normal by which time another strike is threatened.

Talks are on between the suppliers and the hauliers, who have threatened a second strike from Friday.

The shortage has dampened Britons, specially those in the affected regions, who had to spend the weekend at home.

They are also being hit by small garages and petrol pumps in several towns who have started charging exorbitant prices. The Sun reported about such a station owner in Exeter who on Sunday night charged 2 pounds for a litre of petrol. The average official price is 1.15 pounds.

Ron, who runs Foxhayes Garage in Exeter, Devon, hiked prices Monday morning. He denied that he was trying to profit from the fuel shortage. A spokesperson for the garage said the price hike was to stop panic buying, so that people fill up only in emergency situations. He promised the price would come down once normal deliveries resume.

As the garage came for sharp criticism from all across the town, Ron came up with an idea. He started giving 25 pound MoT (road worthiness test) vouchers to offset the high fuel cost.

In Leicester and surrounding areas in the Midlands, there has been panic buying throughout the weekend. There is little traffic seen on the otherwise busy roads.

Leicester Mercury reported some motorists are using vegetable oil to cut fuel costs.

Mark Cornell, of software company CubeRoot in Leicester, drives a Citroen and runs his car on a 30 percent blend of vegetable oil and diesel. His company has now started providing filters and conversion kits for people who want to run their cars using vegetable oil.

“The huge oil price hike has shocked people and they are looking for alternatives. Most of the inquiries we get are about using raw vegetable oil, which can be completely free if it is recycled,” he said.

He says even rapeseed oil would do, but as a blend with diesel. These cooking mediums cost 87 pence a litre. Such is the demand for bio-fuel that a bio-diesel blend is now available at a garage in Ellistown, Leicestershire and a 30 percent blend is being tested at one pump at Morrisons (a supermarket chain) in Leicester.

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