Fuel ‘panic-buying’ in UK could see army to rescue

NEWS DIGEST – Britain experienced further ‘panic-buying’ of motor fuel Monday as a shortage of lorry drivers on Covid and Brexit fallout could reportedly prompt the government to use the army to make deliveries.

The Petrol Retailers Association claimed that almost half of the UK’s 8,000 fuel pumps had run out of petrol on Sunday, as desperate drivers formed long queues to fill up tanks.

PRA chairman Brian Madderson told the BBC that shortages were down to “panic buying, pure and simple”.

In an emergency move, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said he had suspended oil industry competition laws to ensure suppliers “can share vital information and work together more effectively to ensure disruption is minimised”.

It comes as UK media widely reported that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is considering whether to call upon soldiers to deliver fuel to petrol stations across the nation.

Questioned over the weekend, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps refused to rule out requesting military assistance.

Britain’s shortage of lorry drivers is affecting many sectors including the food industry, although German supermarket Aldi on Monday insisted it was coping well with regards deliveries to its many UK stores.

Oil giant Shell meanwhile said it is “working hard to ensure supplies for customers”.

It added in a statement: “Since Friday we have been seeing a higher than normal demand across our network which is resulting in some sites running low on some (petrol) grades. We are replenishing these quickly, usually within 24 hours.”

The situation has evoked the dark days of the 1970s when energy supply problems led to a three-day working week and fuel rationing in Britain.

It is reminiscent also of late 2000, when people protesting over high fuel prices blockaded oil refineries, bringing the country to a virtual standstill for weeks.