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Fuel, Gas and Hot Air

We've been keeping an eye on the flurry of energy updates over the past week or so… and it hasn’t been hard to find the big news.

The UK has been in the grip of a petrol shortage, though there are conflicting views as to what exactly caused the run on diesel and petrol. A couple of weeks ago a single news report suggested that a handful of BP garages were running low on fuel, a problem apparently caused by a shortage of HGV drivers. And then social media swung into action… as only it can.

The news went viral and within a day there were queues at petrol stations the length and breadth of the country. Presumably the same people who filled their car boots with toilet paper and flour at the start of the pandemic had another spectacular attack of self-interest and, inevitably, hundreds more petrol stations were paralysed within a couple of days. While some motorists were emptying pumps for their £7-50 of petrol to keep them topped up, others found it almost impossible to find a petrol station open. And all the time there was plenty of petrol in the country.

There isn’t much of a funny side to see in the petrol shortage, particularly in London and the South East, but social media has been awash with some of the most idiotic attempts to stock-pile diesel, some drivers filling ice cream tubs, after being emptied of course, and at least one motorist trying to fill (ultimately unsuccessfully) a carrier bag.

While some people enthusiastically blamed Brexit for the shortages and others angrily pointed the finger at the media, the Electric Vehicle market watched with interest. Our partners at Electra Commercial Vehicles’ vision, which is to provide commercial vehicle operators a zero emission solution, continues to gain traction as the environmentally aware driver moves closer to the switch. And a new Electric Vehicle is primed to hit the market. Citroen’s tiny Ami is as long as a standard UK parking space and the French company says it has already taken 1,000 pre-orders online.

More so than the run on petrol, a shortage of gas across Europe is troubling governments and consumers, as a winter of discontent threatens to loom. The demand for gas is rising across the continent but the UK Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has said there is no need to worry about the likelihood of the lights going out. The UK does operate a just-in-time model though, with small storage facilities. We import half of our gas, much from Norway, which is increasing its exports, and also from the Netherlands and Belgium.

Russia has been accused of restricting the supply to Europe, but this doesn’t really affect the UK as Russian gas represents a small percentage of intake.

Always on the lookout for the opportunity of a positive message, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he wants all the UK’s electricity to come from green energy by 2035 as he sets out the governments plan to invest heavily in renewables and nuclear. He reckons the move will lower energy prices and end reliance on overseas sources of power, in part because of the rocketing gas prices.

Let’s hope he’s right and his 14 year forecast is accurate, because few of us would have predicted the last 14 days, even a couple of months ago!

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