23 March 2011
I enjoy what I do for a living, but it isn't the greatest payer. I get by. The one single thing that might force me to stop doing the work I do is the ongoing rising price of fuel, and so I'm grateful, without jumping through hoops, for the reduction in duty today.
Away from the politics of it all, I'd love to know why fuel at some garages is cheaper than others. It is all way too expensive, irrespective of which outlet you choose, but a Sainsbury's or an Asda round my way can cost up to 7p less per litre than a high street BP garage. I used to use BP all the time; it was the cheaper high street option (far more so than Shell) and the Nectar points came in handy.
Now BP costs far more than Shell, both of whom are, as far as my limited knowledge can decipher, enormous oil companies that are well reimbursed for the work they do from all consumers, not just those who take petrol from their pumps. How come supermarkets can afford to flog it for less? Do they not use the same companies to get their fuel? I know Sainsbury's make a few quid each year, but they can't possibly garner as much revenue and profit as BP.
Beyond all that, how come there is such a disparity between petrol stations supposedly representing the same company? Here I turn to my biggest single hate of all time - the motorway service station. I haven't filled a car up for years at any of the three stations I pass week on week on the M62 when commuting from Hull to Stockport. At Ferrybridge, there is an Esso garage. I stop there sometimes to revive myself via the Coffee Nation machine. Then, at Hartshead Moor, there is a Shell garage. I stop there sometimes to revive myself via the Coffee Nation machine. And, finally, at Birch Services, there is a BP garage. I stop there sometimes to revive myself via the Coffee Nation machine. Not all three in one journey, I might add.
The BP garage at Birch, especially, bears no resemblance to its alleged partners on the high street. There can be an extra 10p hiked on to the fuel per litre just because they know that some motorists have absolutely no choice but to fuel up there. Given that BP is the most expensive of the lot, there is a disparity of pushing 20p per litre between the dearest motorway service station garage and the cheapest supermarket garage. It's crazy. I'm all for the idea of making money, but this feels like tremendous exploitation.
I now fill my car up at a supermarket in Hull as the weekend approaches and then manage to get through the whole weekend - just - via this very full tank. You should watch Top Gear episodes from little more than four years ago - you can see James May standing at a pump and filling a car at 99.9p a litre. They said there would be an outcry and a taxpayers' revolt when it got past a quid a litre - right now I'd be on my knees blessing all known mystical figures if we could get it back to that.