One problem for motorists at the moment is the cost of petrol, where prices have reached over 1.37p on average, as we considered in the blog It’s fuelling anger. However, another problem could soon materialise and that is no petrol. Back in 2000, there was massive disruption to the public with a fuel blockade and a similar thing could occur, following the ‘yes’ vote by fuel tank drivers in favour of strike action.
Over the past few years, strikes have occurred across a variety of industries and if this one did happen with no contingency plan in place, disruption would be significant to both private individuals and companies. Drivers from Unite (the trade union) supply over 90% of fuel to UK garages and so any strike could lead to the closure of up to 7,900 stations.
However, the government has begun to consider the worst case scenario, if talks do not work with plans to begin training army drivers. There are concerns that without these plans in place, disruption across the country may occur with supermarkets, garages and airports all facing fuel shortages. Those who have a job that relies on travel, or even those who simply use their cars or buses to get to work will also feel the effects. Other problems within the emergency services could also emerge, but the government has assured the public that their fuel would be prioritised. The following articles consider this issue.
Fuel strike drivers vote yes in row over conditions BBC News (26/3/12)
Plan for fuel strike, says Downing Street Financial Times, George Parker (27/3/12)
Talks urged to avert fuel tanker strike Independent, Andrew Woodcock and David Mercer (27/3/12)
Ed Miliband: Fuel strike must be avoided at all costs Telegraph, James Hall (27/3/12)
All striking tanker drivers want is responsible minimum standards Guardian, Len McCluskey (27/3/12)
- If a trade union bargains for higher wages, what is the likely effect on employment and unemployment?
- How might strike action by tankers affect businesses?
- Are there likely to be any adverse long term effects if strike action does occur over Easter?
- How could strike action affect a firm’s costs of production? Think in particular about those who rely on travel as part of the business.
- What other options are there to trade unions, besides striking? Assess the effectiveness of each of the options.
- If a shortage of petrol emerged, what would you expect to happen to its market price?
One of the contributing factors towards high inflation in the UK is high and rising oil prices – most of us have seen the effects of this with high prices at petrol stations. However, there are many other areas where high oil prices have had knock on effects and one particular effect is the costs to airlines. As a result, passengers will see a higher price. British Airways will be increasing its fuel surcharge on long-haul flights. The surcharge for economy seats is likely to increase by £10 per flight and for premium seats is to increase by £20 per flight. Nick Swift, BA’s chief financial officer said:
‘As customers will know form the price at petrol pumps, the cost of fuel has continued to rise significantly over the past three months. For us, fuel now represents over one-third of our costs and particularly affects our long-haul flights.’
The impact of high oil prices will undoubtedly affect airline profits, which are expected to halve this year. While International Airlines Group (IAG) has seen a rise in passenger numbers, costs have been rising faster and this may continue with further political unrest in the Middle East, as well as the recent natural disasters we have seen – in particular the concern about the nuclear power station. These concerns have led many airlines, including IAG to engage in hedging, where airlines try to protect themselves from rising fuel prices by agreeing the price they will pay for fuel several months ahead. There are undoubtedly risks of doing so, but with such high prices, this is a practice that airlines have engaged in. After all, fuel does represent over one third of IAG’s costs, so this price hike is hardly unexpected, but consumers will inevitably be affected.
British Airways increases fuel surcharge by £10 Telegraph, David Millward (5/4/11)
BA raises long-haul fuel surcharges BBC News (5/4/11)
BA passengers face fuel surcharge hike Sky News (5/4/11)
BA long-haul surcharge to go up The Press Association (5/4/11)
British Airways ups longhaul fuel surcharge Reuters (5/4/11)
- What are the causes of rising oil prices?
- What is the process of hedging? Are there any risks involved in it? Under what circumstances could hedging enable companies such as IAG to gain and lose?
- What impact is this surcharge likely to have on consumers? Who will it affect the most?
- What explanation is there for rising passenger numbers, yet falling profits for IAG?
Bolivia may have the second largest gas reserves in Latin America but it also has an acute shortage of diesel. People have blamed a variety of causes: smugglers, the government and nationalisation. In truth, the cause may be a combination of all these factors, but whatever the cause, the diesel shortage is acting as a significant constraint on further economic development and is an ongoing headache for the President Evo Morales.
Fuelling Bolivia’s crisis BBC News Online (8/11/07)
||Use supply and demand analysis to illustrate the reasons for the shortages in diesel in Bolivia.
||Explain the impact that fuel subsidies may have had in causing the shortages of diesel. Use supply and demand analysis to illustrate your answer where appropriate.
||Discuss the underlying factors that may be leading to the shortages in diesel.