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Sam Boal
energy crunch

'Panic buying will only make the situation worse,' say Ireland's oil and fuel suppliers

Oil suppliers are limiting the amount they are selling to high volume customers.

IRISH CONSUMERS ARE being urged not to ‘panic buy’ home heating and commercial oil as well as diesel and petrol in response to sharply rising global crude oil prices.

Some Irish oil supply companies have begun to limit the amount of oil they’re selling to customers in response to an increase in demand in recent days.

Global wholesale crude oil prices have been under intense upward pressure in the days since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Energy products have so far been exempt from Western sanctions.

But European and US companies are voluntarily trying to buy less oil and natural gas from Russia, which supplies Europe with about 27% of its crude and derivative products.

The global scramble for wholesale oil from alternative sources is straining supply and prices have rocketed accordingly, eventually trickling down to motorists, farmers and households that use home heating oil in the form of higher fuel prices.

Prices at the pump had already been under pressure before the Russian invasion as demand for transport and commercial fuel rebounded last year.

Petrol and diesel prices rose by almost 30% and 32% in the year to the end of January, according to the Central Statistics Office. Home heating oil prices rose by 50% over the same period.

To get ahead of more inbound price hikes, some consumers have been stocking up since last week, forcing Irish oil suppliers to place caps on the amount of oil they will sell to one customer.

Panic buying will only make the situation more acute, said Kevin McPartlan, Chief Executive of Fuels for Ireland.

The group — which represents service station chains like Circle K as well as oil like Emo Oil —  is calling for calm at a time when many of its members are under pressure.

“They’re absolutely swamped,” said McPartlan.

“With prices being so high and also seeming to continue to rise, there are a number of people — particularly high volume users, like hauliers, farmers, home heating oil customers  —  who are wanting to get ahead of that price increase to purchase earlier than they ordinarily would and in a higher volume than they normally would. 

As a consequence, oil suppliers are “limiting the amount they are selling to those high volume customers”, he explained.

But not that the supply is particularly “tight” at the moment, McPartlan said. The industry believes there is enough supply in Ireland to meet normal buying patterns.

“We just need to make sure that everybody gets what they need even if that means not everyone’s getting what they want,” he said.

Senior Government sources have told The Journal in recent days that a cut to the excise duty on a litre of petrol or diesel could be on the cards in the next two weeks if prices at the pump keep climbing.

Once implemented, McPartlan said this will provide some relief for businesses and consumers.

“There really is no need to fill every tank,” he added.

Separately, hauliers are asking the Government to revise its current Diesel Rebate Scheme — which allows transport businesses to claw back some of the Mineral Oil Tax they pay on fuel — to make it more accessible.

In a statement this afternoon, Aidan Flynn, Chief Executive of the Freight Transport Association Ireland (FTAI) said the scheme, as it’s currently constituted, is ineffective.

“With fuel accounting for more than 41% of the cost of running articulated lorry fleets – and the price of a barrel of oil now breaching $120 – the government must take urgent action to protect Ireland’s supply chain,” he said.

“FTAI is urging the government to review its current diesel rebate programme to make it more accessible and efficient so that the inflationary pressures on the industry charged with delivering everything Ireland needs can be alleviated.

“Currently, less than one-third of qualifying haulage operators are active participants in the rebate scheme, demonstrating its ineffectiveness.”

Flynn added that the proposed excise duty cut on fuels needs to be “activated immediately”. 

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