Dozens of cars are queuing at a station in Leyton, east London, amid a state of panic among the British about the disappearance of fuel, and the return of the “dark crisis of the seventies”.
Across the country, “No fuel” signs or pumps covered with a sign saying “Out of service” have multiplied, including about 30% of the giant British Petroleum (BP) stations affected by the crisis.
According to the Petroleum Traders Association (BRA), about half of the UK’s 8,000 stations ran out of fuel on Sunday.
The retailers association warned that up to two-thirds of its members of about 5,500 independent outlets have run out of fuel, and the rest are “partially drying up and soon running out”.
This brings to mind the energy crisis of the 1970s, when it rationed fuel and reduced the work week to three days. Two decades ago, protests against rising fuel prices shut down refineries and paralyzed the country for weeks.
The bitterness of the crises of the third world
You may have seen the scene of cars crowding in front of gas stations many times in some third world countries, but the question is why the scene was repeated in Britain?
The fuel crisis in Britain is not just an emergency event, but it is exacerbating every minute, to the extent that the British government began to think of sending troops from the army to the streets, especially after quarrels occurred in some stations and the intervention of police forces.
And the Department of Transport announced that “the United Kingdom has a shortage of tens of thousands of truck drivers, due to several factors, including the Corona pandemic, an aging workforce in this field, and the exodus of foreign workers following Britain’s exit from the European Union last year.”
And Britain’s Environment Minister George Eustice warned that citizens’ purchase of petrol without it was the cause of long queues at gas stations.
Eustis said gasoline was readily available and urged people to buy it the usual way.
He predicted that things would return to normal, saying that there are no plans at present to use military personnel to deliver fuel to outlets.
He stressed that Britain’s stock of oil is at its normal level, and that the fear of scarcity of supplies, which led to citizens’ panic and their rush to buy, is not justified.
He said that the only reason for the lack of fuel is to buy more than needed, and that things will return to normal soon.
Government painkillers under pressure
Under pressure, the government decided last Saturday to adjust its post-Brexit immigration policy and grant up to 10,500 temporary work visas from October to December, to make up for a severe shortage of truck drivers as well as employees in key sectors of the economy. British, such as poultry farming.
The government also decided to suspend the competition law to allow oil companies to send fuel shipments to petrol stations directly.
Other measures include sending nearly a million letters to drivers with heavy truck driving licenses to encourage them to return to the industry and plans to train 4,000 people to become drivers of those trucks.
Business Minister Kwasi Kwarting announced that the government has “long-term” contingency plans in place to maintain fuel supplies.
“While there has always been enough fuel in the refineries and stations, we are aware that there have been some issues with the supply chains,” he said.
“We thank the heavy truck drivers and all gas station employees for their hard work during this period,” he added.
But the British Retail Consortium said the number of visas on offer was “too small” to have an impact on the expected disruption of the Christmas period.
“I think we’ll see fewer options, less availability, maybe a shorter shelf life as well, which is really disappointing because it could have been avoided,” said Andrew Obi, director of food policy and sustainability at the trade association.
Meanwhile, turkey farmer Kate Martin has warned supermarkets may run out of poultry before Christmas.
The hiring of additional heavy-duty truck drivers and short-term poultry workers will begin in October, with visas valid until Christmas Eve.