Diesel consumption in Britain down for the first time in a decade

Diesel consumption in Britain fell for the first time last year since the financial crisis more than a decade ago, official figures show.

Between January and November 2019, Britons filled up with nearly half a billion litres less diesel than they did the year previous, marking the first decline in consumption since 2008, according to HM Revenue and Customs data. 

The AA said the drop-off was down to drivers’ shift away from diesel-engined vehicles following the dieselgate scandal in 2015 and a fall in lorry and van traffic last year. 

Diesel dip: Consumption of diesel was down in 2019 for the first time in over a decade, official figures show

Some 27.416billion litres of diesel was pumped into vehicles in Britain in the first 11 months of 2019. 

That’s down from 27.909billion litres in the same period in 2018.

The 493million litre slip in demand is equivalent to nearly six days without a single diesel vehicle on UK roads, the AA calculated. 

The AA said Volkswagen’s dieselgate scandal and ongoing demonisation of oil burning cars had already slowed the growth of UK diesel consumption between 2016 and 2018.

UK road fuel consumption (Jan- Nov) in billion litres

2009: Petrol 20.189, Diesel 22.904, Total 43.093

2010: Petrol 19.020, Diesel 23.624, Total 42.644

2011: Petrol 17.947, Diesel 23.697, Total 41.644

2012: Petrol 17.230, Diesel 23.978, Total 41.208

2013: Petrol 16.525, Diesel 24.608, Total 41.133

2014: Petrol 16.227, Diesel 25.509, Total 41.736

2015: Petrol 15.861, Diesel 26.404, Total 42.265

2016: Petrol 15.672, Diesel 27.482, Total 43.154

2017: Petrol 15.401, Diesel 27.720, Total 43.121

2018: Petrol 15.217, Diesel 27.909, Total 43.126

2019: Petrol 15.366, Diesel 27.416, Total 42.782

Source: HM Revenue and Customs 

The impact of the first low emission zones, such as the ULEZ introduced in April 2019 in London – which punishes diesel cars more than petrol equivalents – has also taken its toll on demand for new oil-burning models.

As has threats from councils to implement bans on diesel passenger cars in cities such as Brighton and Bristol and ongoing reports of the impact inhaling diesel fumes has on the public’s health.

However, with sales of SUVs – which predominantly have diesel engines – continuing to rise, the requirement for diesel fuel has not waned as much as falling vehicle registrations suggests it might.

Instead, it was a drop in van and lorry traffic last year – most likely due to economic uncertainty – that sparked the first fall in demand for diesel since the financial crisis.

In comparison, petrol consumption grew for a second consecutive year.

Vehicles in the UK topped up with 15.366billion litres of unleaded between January and November last year – up from 15.217billion in 2018. 

This is a drop of nearly 5billion litres compared to a decade ago.

Meanwhile, diesel consumption is up nearly 5billion in the same timeframe.  

Luke Bosdet, from the AA, said: ‘The first drop in UK diesel demand in a decade is one to watch: whether a Brexit economic bounce back reinvigorates commercial traffic levels and therefore diesel use, or whether the reduction signals UK fossil fuel use moving from tipping point to actual decline.’

The AA said the decline in consumption was due to a drop in van and lorry traffic last year - most likely due to economic uncertainty

The AA said the decline in consumption was due to a drop in van and lorry traffic last year – most likely due to economic uncertainty

Cost of filling up with diesel and petrol in January has risen by up to 3p a litre

The cost of filling up a car has risen in January due to a combination of supermarkets pulling the plug on fuel deals for Christmas and the rising tension between the US and Iran forcing oil prices higher.

Average petrol prices rose by 2.5p a litre and diesel increased by 3p since mid- December, according to the AA’s latest fuel price index. 

Motorists who regularly brim their vehicles at supermarkets will feel the pinch most, with average prices jumping by more than 5p a litre, the analysis found.

A review of last week’s average forecourt prices found that unleaded had risen from 125.50p a month ago to 128.01p while diesel was up from 129.62p per litre on the run-up to Christmas to 132.70p by the middle of January. 

Asda is the cheapest fuel retailer in January, even despite supermarket Christmas deals on petrol and diesel lapsing

Asda is the cheapest fuel retailer in January, even despite supermarket Christmas deals on petrol and diesel lapsing

Supermarket prices jumped as much as 5.2p a litre in the same period, giving drivers a jolt at the start of the new decade. 

The AA said the sudden jump in prices at supermarkets was ‘not entirely unexpected’, given the ferocity of the big four’s battle for Christmas customers, drawing motorists to the pumps with lower prices and deals based on in-store spending.

AA analysis of the gap between the average price of supermarket petrol and other fuel retailers shows in November supermarkets were 3.97p lower, becoming 5.92p cheaper in December, but have since reverted back to being just 3.48p less expensive. 

‘Rising pump prices have come as something of a New Year shock for drivers, although the end of supermarkets Christmas special offers on fuel made it to some extent predictable,’ Bosdet said.

‘This ‘cold turkey’ moment was made worse by the $5 rise in the price of oil following the Iran-US missile strikes,’ he added. 


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