Daily Telegraph: Motorists face three days of fuel demo misery: “The protests have been prompted by a 20 per cent rise in petrol prices over the past few months, with some filling stations charging more than £1 a litre for unleaded. The rise has been compounded by Hurricane Katrina's disruption of the US oil industry.”: "The petrol industry is taking no chances, however. Shell said it had made contingency plans.": Monday 12 Sept 2005
By David Derbyshire and Toby Helm
The country faces disruption this week after fuel tax protesters stepped up their plans for oil refinery blockades and motorway go-slows.
Demonstrations will now be staged across three days, from Wednesday to Friday.
The protests have been prompted by a 20 per cent rise in petrol prices over the past few months, with some filling stations charging more than £1 a litre for unleaded. The rise has been compounded by Hurricane Katrina's disruption of the US oil industry.
Campaigners from the Fuel Lobby, who want an immediate cut in tax to reduce prices, have given ministers until Wednesday to meet them to discuss their grievances.
Originally, the demonstrations were proposed only for Wednesday but Andrew Spence, a spokesman for the Fuel Lobby, said the campaign had been stepped up and, on Friday, would coincide with the anniversary of the 2000 demonstrations.
Mr Spence said he had been contacted by lorry drivers in France and Spain who were planning sympathy protests and hinted that the port of Dover could be a target. Protesters in Wales are planning a M4 go-slow on Friday.
There were reports of longer queues than normal at some filling stations yesterday but no sign of panic buying.
Edmund King, the executive director of the RAC Foundation, said: "I think some people are slightly overreacting to the possibility of a blockade."
Few industry experts are expecting the kind of widespread shortages that caused havoc five years ago.
Bert Morris, the director of the AA Motoring Trust, said there was little public backing for blockades.
"In 2000 there was public support because the tax rate was still going up," he said. "This time is different. People understand we are in an international crisis."
The petrol industry is taking no chances, however. Shell said it had made contingency plans.
Police and ministers also have significant new powers to deal with demonstrations that threaten the supply of fuel to motorists and industry.
Matthew Carrington, of the Petrol Retailers' Association, doubted whether the protesters had enough support.
"All that protests do is damage people who are suffering from high prices already. What the demonstrators are trying to do is cause pain to innocent third parties to make a protest to the Chancellor. They would do better to do it direct to the Chancellor."
At the end of the last protest Gordon Brown postponed planned tax rises. The Treasury says that since then duty on fuel has gone down in real terms by 14 per cent, or 7p a litre.
Yesterday the Chancellor rejected protesters' calls for emergency cuts in fuel tax, blaming Opec, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, for soaring prices. The issue of oil supply was a global problem that required global solutions, he said.
Denouncing Opec as "a cartel", he said it had failed to respond quickly enough to rising demand from China. It was essential that it agreed to increase production by the end of the month.
Speaking on the BBC's Sunday AM, Mr Brown ruled out Government intervention to bring down prices.
"I think most people understand that it is a global problem, a global challenge, and that it has to be met by global measures," he said.
Alan Duncan, the Tories' transport spokesman, said: "This problem is entirely of the Chancellor's making and, with the deteriorating public finances, he has left himself no elbow room."
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