FINANCIAL TIMES: Fuel price protesters plan action at BP refinery: “Protesters have taken action such as picketing and go-slows outside refineries including ExxonMobil's Fawley plant, which is Britain's biggest. Royal Dutch/Shell plants in Stanlow in Cheshire and Jarrow, Tyne and Wear, have also been targeted…” (ShellNews.net) 28 April 05
By James Boxell
Published: April 28 2005
BP is to become the latest international oil company targeted by fuel protesters after it emerged that truck drivers were planning to picket its Grangemouth refinery in Scotland.
The demonstration, expected before the weekend, comes after days of protests across the country by hauliers and farmers furious at soaring diesel prices, which they say are crippling their businesses.
The protests come in spite of claims by oil companies that they provide the UK with the cheapest motor fuel in Europe and that taxes as well as record crude costs are to blame for high prices at the pump.
Anne Preston, a director of the Road Haulage Association and owner of a haulage company near Tony Blair's Sedgefield constituency, said fuel prices now accounted for more than a third of her company's operating costs. "We are desperate for the government to give us some rebate." The RHA said the industry faced "terminal decline" because of diesel costs that climbed to 90p a litre this week.
Mrs Preston said it was a "bit unfair" to target oil companies but "desperate people take desperate measures" and the tactic had worked during previous fuel protests in 2000. "It is a very effective way to get the government to pay attention. Just-in-time [supplies to filling stations] means there are limited fuel surpluses held anywhere." She said British companies were losing out to foreign hauliers because they were paying 47p tax on a 73p litre of diesel before value added tax, while international counterparts paid only 24p in duty.
Protesters have taken action such as picketing and go-slows outside refineries including ExxonMobil's Fawley plant, which is Britain's biggest. Royal Dutch/Shell plants in Stanlow in Cheshire and Jarrow, Tyne and Wear, have also been targeted, as have Chevron-Texaco's refinery in Pembroke, south Wales, and Total's Milford Haven site.
Phil Flanders, director of the RHA's Scotland and Northern Ireland branch, said the protest at Grangemouth, on the Forth estuary, would only include pickets by individual people rather than truck blockades. However, protesters in other parts of the country have left open the threat of full blockades. The Grangemouth protest requires final consultation with RHA members and police.
"BP has just announced record profits so I suppose it is apt our members want to picket Grangemouth," said Mr Flanders. "The oil companies are making big bucks and the government is getting the windfall from high oil prices at the expense of our members' misery."
However, BP, which this week announced profits of almost £3bn for the first three months of the year, said it was not to blame for soaring prices and that it did not make a profit from selling motor fuel in the UK.
Lord Browne, BP chief executive, said petrol and diesel were "quite a bargain" in the UK before 78 per cent taxes. "It is an incredibly competitive market, providing the cheapest motor spirit in Europe." He said all Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries besides the US had imposed big taxes on fuel but "curiously it hasn't reduced consumption".
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