With advice that is bound to fuel any rush to the forecourt to fill up all the cars in the family as well as every fuel friendly receptacle to hand, the government has said that we should be prepared for the pumps to run dry.
This comes as a result of fuel tanker drivers voting to go on strike over pay as well as health & safety issues. This involves drivers that deliver some 90% of the fuel to our Shell, Esso, Tesco and Sainsbury forecourts.
The Prime Minister will be chairing a cross government meeting this afternoon to see what contingency plans can be put in place such as the use of service personnel to keep the fuel flowing. But it seems to be acknowledged that this could not keep the whole network of garages serviced. And the use of other civilian drivers, such as hiring them from abroad, could be seen as illegal.
The meeting will also presumably consider how much fuel to stockpile for use by government, public transport and the emergency services.
“People, but especially businesses, should look at their contingency plans,” said a government spokesman quoted in the Telegraph. “Those who rely on vehicles for their work should ensure they have contingency plans in place.” Comments that the Labour Party called highly irresponsible.
Given that most people rely on fuel either through private of public transport the government seems to be telling people to stockpile if they can.
According to the Express, one spokeswoman when asked if people should stock up said “I think people should draw their own conclusions”.
A recent Sky News report showed how many garages, especially the smaller independent ones, were almost living from hand to mouth in fuel terms because of high fuel prices by keeping their underground fuel tanks about 25% full at any one time. This means that they could last up to a week with normal demand but maybe just two days if a fuel panic erupted. As the garages rely on the sale of other goods such as milk and newspapers to survive they are also at significant risk.
Given this one could expect to see fuel prices rocket even higher than the current record highs and this will not be pure profiteering by garage owners. They also have to look to a bleak future with no fuel for an unknown length of time.
The Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Davey, has asked ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) says the Guardian to approach all sides to try and avert any strike action.
Should there be a fuel strike the government will then of course have someone to blame for any bad economic news in the future.