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Why United Kingdom is experiencing a fuel crisis?

Britain’s Gas Crisis, Explained. (Source: AP)

Drivers in Britain have been rushing to gas stations to fill up, amid a fuel shortage that has lasted days. Long lines at gas stations and rising fuel prices are the latest challenges that the country faces as it emerges from the pandemic.

British ministers have for days insisted the crisis is abating or even over, though retailers said more than 2,000 gas stations were dry across London and southern England. Such is the shortage of truckers that pharmacies were being affected.

“The whole supply chain has been impacted from inbound wholesale depot supply down to outward depot deliveries to pharmacies,” said a spokeswoman for the association which represents large pharmacy operators.

Reasons behind crisis

The fuel crisis kicked off last week after BP (BP) was forced to temporarily close some of its stations for the second time in as many months because of a shortage of tanker drivers made worse by the pandemic and Brexit. Brits rushed to buy gasoline, emptying thousands of service stations.

Queues of often irate drivers snaked back from those gas stations that were still open in London. The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) said members reported on Friday that 26% of pumps were dry, 27% had just one fuel type in stock and 47% had enough petrol and diesel.

The key issue is there aren’t enough drivers to supply petrol. There’s an estimated shortage of more than 100,000 HGV drivers and petrol is only the latest industry to be hit. The lack of drivers has caused problems for a range of industries – from supermarkets to fast food chains.

Masses’ reaction

The masses are also fumed as they are failing to get fuel and often fighting incidents are being reported.

Ata Uriakhil, a 47-year-old taxi driver from Afghanistan who was first in a line of more than 40 cars outside a closed supermarket petrol station in Richmond said: “I am completely, completely fed up. Why is the country not ready for anything?” 

Steve McNamara, the general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, said that 25 to 30 percent of the group’s members could not get fuel on Tuesday and were unable to work. “A taxi driver without fuel is unemployed,” he told the media.

What government doing

The Ministry of Defence is preparing about 150 qualified military drivers to deliver fuel – and has another 150 personnel ready to support them.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) says it will also draw on some of the reserve fleet of 80 tankers which the government keeps for emergencies.

Ministers say the world is facing a global shortage of truck drivers and that they are working to ease the crisis. They deny that the situation is a consequence of an exodus of EU workers following Britain’s departure from the bloc, and have dismissed concerns the country is heading towards a “winter of discontent” of shortages and power cuts.

Though there are shortages of truck drivers in other countries, EU members have not seen fuel shortages.

The Independent reports that the government has asked thousands of Germans residing in the UK to drive lorries to assist with the HGV shortage, even if they have never driven one before (!). The government is hopeful that the crisis will be addressed in upcoming few days as the army has been put on standby to ensure delivery of the fuel.