Whilst perhaps not an essential in the sense of needing it to live, petrol is about as close as you can get to a ‘non-essential necessity’ these days. Most families have a car (many have more than one) and despite the hikes in petrol prices we’ve seen across the UK, demand for petrol has remained high: it is a prime example of a good with a highly inelastic demand.
Over the past few years many families have chosen to forego their holidays abroad and instead have taken to summer vacations across the UK in a bid to save money. However, with the summer season approaching and families beginning to think about where to go or plan their trips, one thing that should be considered is the cost of travel. Petrol prices across Europe have risen faster than those in the UK over the past year and this may pose a significant cost and possibly deterrent to European travel. As Sarah Munro of the Post Office said:
‘The high fuel price increases in Europe mean that UK holidaymakers should plan their routes carefully in advance to cut costs’.
Petrol prices were found to be the lowest in Luxembourg at 128p per litre and the highest in Norway at 182p – a definite deterrent to filling up your tank in Scandinavia. Despite motorists’ constant exclamations of the price of petrol in the UK, of the 14 countries surveyed the UK came in as the 4th cheapest at 136p. It also had the smallest increase since 2010 of 14p, compared to the average of the countries surveyed of 27.8p.
Although the higher fuel prices have been fuelled (no pun intended) by rising wholesale oil prices, when crude prices started to fall, petrol prices didn’t decline to match. This has sparked an inquiry into petrol prices, with demands for more transparency into the price setting behaviour of firms. The British Petrol Retailers’ Association is planning on referring its concerns to the Office of Fair Trading. So the moral of the story: petrol prices are high in the UK, but if you’re going on holiday this summer, you’ll probably find that many other countries across Europe have even higher prices, so planning is essential.
Holiday hike: European petrol prices soar by up to 35 per cent Daily Mail Online, Sarah Gordon (10/6/11)
UK holidaymakers ‘face high petrol prices’ BBC News (10/6/11)
Petrol prices are 35% higher in Europe than last summer Mirror, Ruki Sayid (10/6/11)
Motoring coalition calls on EU to investigate soaring price of petrol Telegraph, Rowena Mason (10/6/11)
Motoring groups demand petrol price investigation BBC News (30/5/11)
- How are European petrol prices set?
- Why does the exchange rate against the dollar have a big impact on oil prices?
- Why have petrol prices in the UK not increased by as much as other European countries over the past year?
- Why is there likely to be an investigation into how prices are set? Which factors do you think will be considered?
- The Telegraph article talks about the sport market. What is this and how does it affect how petrol prices are set?
- Why does petrol have such inelastic demand?
- If a higher tax is imposed on petrol, why is it that much of the cost will be passed on to consumers in the form of a higher price? Illustrate this on a diagram.