Government warning sparks fuel-buying surge in UK
The UK is currently experiencing a run on fuel after a government minister warned citizens to stock up ahead of a possible strike by British fuel tanker drivers. Despite the fact that a strike is anything but certain, and must also be preceded by a week-long warning period, Britain's Petrol Retailers Association says that gasoline sales are up 81 percent and diesel 43 percent since the comments were made. The average price of fuel there today is £1.40/liter, or $8.49/gallon.
Cabinet Minister Francis Maude had originally commented that Britain's drivers should store fuel, "maybe a little bit in the garage as well in a jerrycan." Late Tuesday, Transportation Minister Mike Penning attempted to walk back that comment a bit, stating that Maude had misunderstood the size of a jerrycan (20 liters). Penning, however, still remarked the he supported the advice to keep fuel tanks topped off in case a strike date is set.
Lines to purchase fuel today are reportedly so long in places that authorities are ordering some stations to close in order to clear the road congestion. Gasoline containers are also reportedly flying off shelves.
The potential strike would involve some 2,000 drivers represented by Unite, the country's largest trade union. The union is negotiating for minimum standards that would cover things like wages, hours and holidays for drivers that deliver fuel to Shell and Esso gas stations, as well as supermarkets.
The UK government is defending the ministers' comments as taking appropriate precautions, but other organizations, like Britain's Automobile Association, are blaming the official advice for panic buying that will lead to fuel shortages ahead of a strike that may not even happen.