OPINION

The myth of cheap fuel

The price of fuel is speculative and varies around the world, our friendly gas station owners claim. This is just one of the lies told by people looking to make money. The truth is that the price of crude depends on international stock market trading but gas station owners are not investors in London. They buy a product at a specific price and should sell it at a higher price that includes their gross profit. They have no right to incorporate into the sales price the expectation of a price increase in the product around the world, just as they are not in the habit of lowering the price when the international forecast is for a fall. The nonsense spouted by gas station owners should come as no surprise when two of the largest petroleum companies in Greece (and worldwide), BP and Shell, have been accused by the Competition Commission of manipulating prices. They are threatened with fines of over 50 million euros each because of their discounts to gas stations. It is these tactics that set prices, particularly in regions where the firms have the largest market share. Their collaboration naturally is of no benefit to the consumer. We all know that fuel prices decline very slowly when they are plummeting on the international market and rise rapidly when the trend is upward. No one knows whether these practices are of most benefit to the refineries, commercial firms, tanker truck owners or gas stations. Those who suffer the most are the consumers and the economy. Greece usually has the highest fiscal deficit in Europe but keeps fuel taxes low so as to keep inflation down. Yet we don’t have low inflation, and the revenue the state could be earning provides wide margins for profit in the fuel sector. The European Commission is forcing us to raise taxes over the next few years. That might restrict margins for profiteering on fuel, which is indirectly subsidized by the state.