The price of fuel on the UK’s forecourts rose by 3p a litre in February, making it £1.70 more expensive to fill up a family car and nearly £5 dearer than in late 2020, data from RAC Fuel Watch reveals.
After four months of consecutive rises a litre of petrol now costs an average of 123.38p – up from 120.22p at the start of the month – while diesel is 126.47p (up from 123.35p) having risen for the last three months. A full tank of unleaded now sets drivers back £67.86 whereas on 1 November it was £4.87 cheaper at £62.98 due to a litre being almost 9p less at just 114.52p. Compared to 1 November a full tank of diesel is now £4.75 more expensive at £69.56, versus £64.81 when a litre was 117.85p.
A sharp increase in the price of a barrel of oil has driven the rise in forecourt prices. In February alone oil rocketed by $10 a barrel to $65.83, a price not seen since mid-January 2020. And compared to 1 November 2020 a barrel now costs $29 more.
The average price of fuel at the big four supermarkets is 4p a litre cheaper at 119.32p for unleaded and 122.24p for diesel after an increase of 2.8p on both fuels during February. Asda had the lowest priced petrol and diesel in February at 118.41p and 121.51p, narrowly ahead of Sainsbury’s which was only 0.5p more expensive.
Looking around the UK regions and nations however, RAC Fuel Watch can reveal a significant retailing anomaly, with prices in Northern Ireland around 5p a litre cheaper than the UK average at 118.38p for petrol and 121.92 for diesel. The RAC understands this is as a result of fuel being imported from the Republic of Ireland where taxes are lower per litre, coupled with the benefit of sterling being considerably stronger against the Euro than it was two months ago.
RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said: “February was another rough month for drivers at the pumps and there is great uncertainty over the future of forecourt prices, with fears of further rises looming large. Those using their cars more frequently will have found themselves having to fork out far more in February than they have at any other time during the pandemic with a complete fill-up now costing almost £5 more than it did at the start of November.
“Oil shot up by $10, a barrel price last seen in January 2020, which led to a 3p a litre hike on the cost of both petrol and diesel. The worry now is whether analysts talk of oil reaching $80 by the end of the year will prove accurate. If it does, we could see a litre of unleaded top 130p and diesel 134p.
“Much hinges on what oil producer group OPEC and its allies decide to do at their meeting tomorrow (4 March). As the build-up of crude from the pandemic is starting to diminish, they are expected to increase output, but the important question is by how much. There’s a big concern that they won’t release enough supply to soak up the increased global demand as life begins to return to something more like normal, which could cause the price to go up further. If this proves to be the case, drivers will inevitably be hit badly at the pumps.”