Truly dark day for drivers as petrol prices hit record high in UK

Petrol prices have hit a record high across the UK in what the RAC has described as a “truly dark day for drivers”.

The average daily price per litre hit 142.94p on Sunday in data reported on Monday morning by RAC/Experian Catalist, which is separate from the weekly average record price reported by government.

The previous record for was 142.48p in April 2012. Diesel reached 146.50p a litre on Sunday – still 1.43p short of its April 2012 all-time high of 147.93p.

The price of unleaded has rocketed by 28p a litre in a year from 114.5p in October 2020, adding £15 to the cost of filling up a 55-litre family car, according to RAC Fuel Watch.

It comes as oil prices worldwide continued to climb, with the benchmark Brent crude increasing 56 cents, or 0.7%, to
$86.09 a barrel, following on from last Friday’s 1.1% gain.

RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said: “This is truly a dark day for drivers, and one which we hoped we wouldn’t see again after the high prices of April 2012. This will hurt many household budgets and no doubt have knock-on implications for the wider economy.

“The big question now is: where will it stop and what price will petrol hit? If oil gets to $100 a barrel, we could very easily see the average price climb to 150p a litre.

“Even though many people aren’t driving quite as much as they have in the past due to the pandemic, drivers tell us they are more reliant on their cars now than they have been in years, and many simply don’t have a choice but to drive.

“There’s a risk those on lower incomes who have to drive to work will seriously struggle to find the extra money for the petrol they so badly need.

“We urge the government to help ease the burden at the pumps by temporarily reducing VAT, and for the biggest retailers to bring the amount they make on every litre of petrol back down to the level it was prior to the pandemic.”

The situation for petrol is unlikely to improve soon, with analysts forecasting Brent crude prices to remain high for the rest of the year.

US investment bank Goldman Sachs is among those who think Brent crude prices could reach $90 a barrel by the end of 2021, pointing to a rebound in demand from Asia following pandemic re-openings.

Elsewhere, India and France are also among the countries to have seen record highs in recent days, although – like in the UK – their petrol prices are inflated by massive fuel taxes.

In the UK, tax accounts for 57% of the average retail price for a litre of petrol, according to the RAC.

The AA said the high petrol prices could lead more drivers to consider switching to electric vehicles, with electricity prices as low as 4.5p per kWh off peak at home.

The organisation’s fuel spokesman Luke Bosdet said: “Whether it’s down to oil producers, market speculators, Treasury taxes or struggling retailers trying to balance their margins, record pump prices must be saying to drivers with the means that it is time to make the switch to electric.

“As for poorer motorists, many of them now facing daily charges to drive in cities, there is no escape. It’s a return to cutting back on other consumer spending, perhaps even heating or food, to keep the car that gets them to work on the road.”

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