The Government’s switch to greener petrol last month was a “major factor” behind the fuel crisis that saw forecourts across the country run dry, industry chiefs have revealed.
Retailers said they had already been “emptying their tanks as fast as we could” for the switchover to E10 petrol when a sudden surge in panic buying quickly drained their remaining stocks.
According to official figures released on Thursday, fuel deliveries to petrol stations remained steady over the summer and throughout most of September despite warnings of a slowdown caused by a shortage of HGV drivers.
Yet the amount of spare fuel stored at forecourts fell sharply by up to a quarter after Sept 1, when the Government introduced greener E10 fuel as the standard unleaded petrol.
When motorists began panic buying on Sept 24, garages across the country found they did not have enough in their storage tanks to keep up with demand.
Brian Madderson, the chairman of the Petrol Retailers Association, said the data showed that the fuel crisis had been an “unintended consequence” of the Government’s switch to greener petrol.
“For weeks we had been emptying our tanks of E5, the old fuel, as fast as we could to get ready for E10. We had all run our petrol stocks down,” Mr. Madderson said.
“So when the panic buying started, many of our members ran out pretty quickly. Then the shortage of HGV drivers meant we couldn’t get supplies of petrol or diesel quickly enough.
“I don’t blame the Government particularly but the E10 switchover clearly had an unintended consequence: we couldn’t cope with the surge in demand.”
Ministers rolled out E10, which is blended with a minimum of 5.5 percent biofuel, as the standard unleaded petrol from Sept 1.
Previously the regular unleaded was E5, although E10 has been on sale for some time in the UK and many European countries. The move was an interim step to help the UK reach its target of net zero emissions by 2030.
Mr. Madderson said some smaller petrol stations had been in the process of switching their storage facilities when the crisis hit because E10’s higher ethanol content can burn through rubber.
“That can take time,” he said.
Many fuel retailers including Asda have opted to sell only E10 at their sites. BP has said only some sites will be selling E5, while 200 of Esso’s 1,200 petrol stations are no longer selling the old grade.
According to the figures released on Thursday by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Industrial Strategy, deliveries for road fuel remained steady throughout the summer, averaging around 16,000 liters of petrol and diesel per station each day from mid-June to the end of August. …snip…
What is E10 petrol?
E10 petrol contains up to 10 percent ethanol, double the level in the type previously commonly used in the UK, E5.
It was introduced at the start of September by the Government in a bid to make driving more eco-friendly.
How is it better for the environment?
The ethanol in the fuel is made from natural sources like grains, rather than the petroleum oil that makes up the bulk of the fuel used in cars that run on petrol or diesel.
This means lower emissions because the process of growing the crops also removes carbon from the air.
The Government says the switch could cut carbon dioxide emissions by 750,000 tonnes a year, the equivalent of taking 350,000 cars off the roads in the UK.
The change also does not solve the problem of air pollution from vehicles and its impact on people’s health.
Is it less efficient?
Drivers may get fewer miles to the gallon with E10 petrol. The Government says drivers “may see a reduction of around one percent but it is unlikely to be noticeable in everyday driving”.
For the typical UK car which does 49.2 miles per gallon, this would mean a fall to 48.7, though some drivers have reported larger drops.
h / t Rúnar O.
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