It is rarely a good news story for country drivers; the indecipherable cause of wild fluctuations in petrol prices. Regional residents have the ineluctable dilemma of being further chained by long distances and car dependency.
No doubt the timing just before the long weekend will prove doubly painful for some families but the latest blow has come from afar according to the the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. It found on the back of OPEC's decision to continue to reduce global oil production petrol prices are set to spike to their highest point since 2014.
The average price for the five largest cities for the March quarter hit $1.35 a litre, although the difference in prices between the cities was around six cents a litre. The region’s fuel prices have reached as high as 161c per litre in some instances late last month, a figure all the more galling when they were as low of as 99 cents.per litre in June last year.
On one hand there are the macro causes such as spiking global oil prices that have played a role in the rising petrol prices, the latest being that the oil cartel of OPEC and Russia announced they were cutting global production supply levels.
On the other there are those local factors that come down to the retailers. The ACCC also found this week the average gross retail margins have fallen compared to the previous quarter by 1.8 cents per litre, down to 12.4 cents but still remained well above the real long-term average of 8 cents per litre since the ACCC began monitoring petrol stations in 2002.
This news comes on the back of ACCC’s report naming and shaming the most expensive fuel providers around the country where the report listed major retailers Coles Express, BP and Caltex as having highest prices on average. Independent chains such as 7-Eleven and United generally had prices lower than the market average.
The ACCC wants drivers to ‘fight back’ by shopping around and using fuel check apps to compare prices. A commendable sentiment that may at least give drivers satisfaction they are in some way controlling the issue, even if the savings amounts to cents.
But the best advice may be little consolation when it simply advises to shop around; knowing the time and cost of driving around to get that low price may be just as wasteful.
And with such big forces at play one has to wonder if the energy might be better spent elsewhere.