JO DAVISON: Petrol or Shanks’s Pony

The good old days: Remember when petrol was this price and we used to grumble? How cheap it looks now

The good old days: Remember when petrol was this price and we used to grumble? How cheap it looks now

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Petrol prices... Finally, I’m hot under the collar.

Through each and every fuel price rise, I have refused to allow my temper to ignite.

Well, a few pence would go on, then a few pence would slowly disappear a few months later, according to what the ordinary little, penny-counting person in the street assumes is the whim of some obscenely rich country in the Middle East.

Or our government’s greedy hand at Budget time.

But now it’s 136p a litre at our local petrol station - the highest it has ever been.

To fill up the average tank now costs a hard-up family £92.48 - and economists warn it won’t stop there.

It’s gone beyond the pale. £6 a gallon? That’s 30 miles for the price of... of... actually, not very much these days.

What can you actually get for six quid?

A T-shirt at Matalan? A pair of tights?

A very small Sunday roast if you’re lucky. Every time I get to the supermarket check-out, my weekly food bill seems to have gone up.

Have you seen the cost of a dozen eggs now?

I reckon my weekly bill is about a third more (and one of the reasons for this is the escalating costs of transporting food to the stores.

Fuel prices are at the root of it.

But at least that feels you’re getting something for your money; you can see the pork chops.

Whereas buying petrol invisibly converts your cash into the mundaneness of getting from A to B.

You stick the nozzle into your tank, pay and go as far as it will take you, then you have to do the same thing all over again to get back again.

This sounds illogical, I know, but the reason I have managed to stay calm for so long about the ever-rising cost of petrol is by only ever putting £25 in at a time.

You go a bit less further and you have to refuel more frequently, but you don’t seem to notice the extra cost. Well, not until you get the monthly bank statement. Only, now I’m barely going to be able to get anywhere on what is only a quarter of a tank.

At least I haven’t got a diesel, though. How unfairly are they treated in the fuel price-hikes?

A couple of decades ago, we were being urged to buy diesel cars. It was supposedly the fuel of the future – the new, green face of motoring and exactly what governments and environmentalists wanted. Cheaper running costs were used as the big incentive to hook motorists. Not only were diesel engines more economical on fuel, but diesel was cheaper than petrol; it made the higher cost of a diesel-engined car worth shelling out for.

Only, now diesel is higher than the cost of petrol. Why is that? The only answer I can find is that it’s because demand has gone up!

If you’re lucky enough to still have a job, you’ll have noticed companies aren’t increasing the amount they recompense employees for the miles they travel to do their job. But holiday firms and airlines are hiking up charges to cover their escalating costs. And so are bus companies. It won’t be long before taxi drivers get the go-ahead to put their fares up – and who can blame them? Though whether anyone under the age of 22 will be able to afford taxis hither and thither is questionable.

The Great British public are being squeezed until their pips squeak. No wonder so many of Sheffield’s shopping districts are suffering. People can’t afford the petrol to get there, let alone buy anything.

And what can we do? Every so often, those mass emails do the rounds, urging everyone to stop buying from the petrol giants in protest, but it never seems to make a difference.

I reckon £6 a gallon marks a turning point for many of us – away from viewing the car as the easiest form of transport. We have to put up, shut up and get on Shanks’s Pony...

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