THE NEW YORK TIMES: UK Refineries Open Despite Fuel Price Protests: “Drivers fearing shortages had bought up a week's worth of fuel in a single day after the call by lobby groups for protests against high prices raised fears of a repeat of demonstrations that all but shut the country down five years ago.”: Wednesday 14 Sept 2005
Published: September 14, 2005
Filed at 3:41 a.m. ET
LONDON (Reuters) - Protesters outside British oil refineries and depots on Wednesday failed to block fuel supplies despite threats of demonstrations against high prices that had triggered queues at filling stations.
Drivers fearing shortages had bought up a week's worth of fuel in a single day after the call by lobby groups for protests against high prices raised fears of a repeat of demonstrations that all but shut the country down five years ago.
But major lorry driver groups like the British Road Haulage Association told their members not to take part in the protests. Police said they would ensure that supplies were not cut off.
``We've been heavily intimidated by the police. I'm not happy at all. People are turning up and the police turning them away,'' protest leader Andy Spence told Reuters by telephone from outside Shell's Jarrow fuel distribution center in northern England before dawn.
He said his group had never intended to block supplies.
A spokeswoman for BP told Reuters there were no demonstrations at any of its refineries or depots, as did a spokesman for ExxonMobil.
``The police will take firm action as necessary,'' Chris Fox, President of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said. ''Blocking the highway or preventing companies going about their business is unlawful.''
He said fuel shortages would only happen if motorists were panicked into buying excessive amounts of petrol.
Protesters want the government to lower fuel prices by cutting taxes, but the government has ruled that out.
``British people understand very clearly that the source of this problem is a doubling of world oil prices,'' finance minister Gordon Brown said on Tuesday.
The cost of a liter of petrol climbed above 1 pound in some areas last week after the price of oil on world markets hit a record of more than $70 a barrel.
The fuel delivery industry said it was confident of maintaining supplies, despite selling a week's worth of fuel in one day on Tuesday.
``I am hopeful it will be a normal working day,'' Chris Hunt, director general of the UK Petroleum Industry Association, which represents major fuel suppliers, told the BBC's Newsnight program. ``Our tanker drivers will be operating as normal.''
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