Campaign group FairFuelUK (FFUK) has made a fresh call for the Chancellor to scrap January’s planned 3ppl rise in fuel duty, after figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) showed a sharp fall in fuel consumption.
Sales of transport fuels fell 6.3% in the second quarter compared to the same period in 2011, made up of a 10.6% fall in petrol deliveries and a 1.6% fall in diesel deliveries.
In all, some 6.2 billion litres of diesel were delivered during the quarter, of which just over four billion litres (down 1.6%) went to retail outlets and just over 2.1 billion litres (down 1.7%) were bulk deliveries.
Deliveries of transport fuels were particularly low in April, said the DECC, following a substantial increase in sales in March in anticipation of the tanker drivers’ strike earlier this year.
FFUK said the figures were “a telling indicator” that high fuel costs were reducing the disposable income of millions of families and businesses and strangling the economy.
“Part of the reason we are in this economic mess is that fuel is the oxygen of the economy and if you make it expensive, you’re going to strangle economic growth,” said FFUK founder Peter Carroll.
“What you're seeing here is a fall in consumer demand, which is terrible, because without consumer demand, you don't have an economy.”
The relatively muted drop in demand for diesel compared to petrol only served to underline the fact that truck operators don’t have the same modal options as the general motorist, he added.
“A member of the public has a choice - he can go by bus, go by train or even walk; but your pallet of baked beans has pretty much got to go on a truck,” Carroll said.
In August, the average UK retail price for petrol was ranked sixth highest in the EU; while UK retail diesel prices were the highest in the EU, according to the DECC figures.
In mid-September, the average UK retail diesel price was 144.2ppl – 5ppl higher than a year earlier but 3.6p/litre below the peak seen in April this year, it said.