Petrol and diesel prices have fallen almost 50p a litre since they peaked last summer, but are still far higher than they were in 2021, new figures have shown.
In its weekly report on road fuel prices, the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero reported that the average price of unleaded at the pump is now 145.71p per litre. Motorists with diesel cars are paying 162.71p.
That is well below the peak of 191.55p for petrol and 199.22p for diesel last summer, but is also considerably higher than the 126.53p and 130.43p respective prices in early May 2021.
Meanwhile, the RAC has cautioned that fuel prices could rise in the near future, due to an uplift in oil prices.
Our interactive chart below reveals how petrol and diesel prices have changed over the past decade – allowing you to see what has happened to your bill.
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Fuel prices have been an issue with governments for at least a century.
On July 31, 1922, President of the Board of Trade Philip Lloyd-Greame responded to complaints about high prices from MPs with: ‘His Majesty’s Government are fully alive to the importance of petrol being available at reasonable prices.’
Wind the clock forward to the present day and following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, fuel prices shot up, with diesel peaking at an average of 199.22p per litre and petrol 191.55p per litre in July 2022.
At that time, 91.26p of every litre of petrol and 92.79 of every litre of diesel was going directly to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the form of fuel duty and VAT.
This prompted emergency action to reduce fuel duty on petrol and diesel, as families faced the prospect of paying more than £100 to fill a standard runabout.
Now, petrol prices are returning towards the levels last seen in the run-up to Moscow’s illegal invasion of its neighbour.
Petrol prices at the pump have fallen to around the level they were before Vladimir Putin ordered his illegal invasion of Ukraine in February 2022
At present, each litre of fuel bought at the local forecourt has excise duty of 52.95p plus VAT at 20 per cent added to the cost.
Over the past 12 months, petrol prices have fallen on average by 10 per cent, while diesel has reduced by six per cent.
Though it is feared fuel prices may increase again after a shock decision by OPEC+ to cut production levels by almost 1.2 million barrels of oil per day.
This saw oil prices on the international markets increase to £69.77 a barrel, up from £56.50 last month.
RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said: ‘The big question is whether retailers will raise their pump prices, and if so how quickly.’
He added that, while the average cost at the pump should not increase immediately following the spike in oil prices, it could creep upwards if they remained elevated ‘for several days’.
If higher costs do feed through to forecourts, the AA predicted petrol prices could rise by between 3 and 5p per litre, equivalent to adding between £1.65 and £2.75 to the cost of filling a car’s typical 55-litre tank.
A recent parliamentary briefing paper laid the blame for the recent fuel crisis on the war in Ukraine, exacerbated by the weak pound.
It said: ‘The rates of duty on petrol and diesel were cut by five pence per litre on March 23, 2022. This initially led to a fall in the price of both fuels, but by less than five pence per litre. This drop in prices was soon reversed and there were particularly large increases in late May and June.
‘The high international oil prices are magnified in the UK due to the relative weakness of Sterling. Crude oil prices in Sterling reached their highest ever levels in 2022.
‘On top of this there were record refinery margins in early 2022, initially for diesel and latterly for petrol, due to a fall in refinery output/capacity and the impact of the war in Ukraine. This explains the rapid increase in road fuel prices between May and July 2022 at a time when oil prices increased more slowly.’
Although prices paid by motorists at the pumps have softened, oil giant Shell today reported it made £1.4 billion more in profit than experts had expected the oil giant to make in the first three months of the year.
The business joined its rival BP in reporting expectations-beating results this week.
Shell said its adjusted earnings had risen by 5.7 per cent compared with the same quarter a year earlier, reaching £7.6 billion.
The business said that, compared with the last three months of 2022, it had faced unfavourable tax movements, and the price it was able to sell oil and gas at dropped.
However, Shell said it had managed to offset some of this through cutting operating expenses and a rise in its chemicals and products trading business.
The company said it had decreased production slightly compared with a year ago, to 2.9 million barrels of oil equivalent per day. Revenue rose 3.3 per cent to just under £69 billion.
Fuel duty increases and cuts since 2001
7 March 2001: 45.82p per litre
1 October 2003: 47.10p per litre
7 December 2006: 48.35p per litre
1 October 2007: 50.35p per litre
1 December 2008: 52.35p per litre
1 April 2009: 54.19p per litre
1 September 2009: 56.19p per litre
1 April 2010: 57.19p per litre
1 October 2010: 58.19p per litre
1 January 2011: 58.95p per litre
23 March 2011: 57.95p per litre
23 March 2022: 52.95p per litre
*Fuel duty cuts in bold
It also announced plans to buy back shares worth £3.2 billion from investors over the next three months to return cash to its owners.
On completion, the company will have distributed around £9.6 billion to its shareholders in the first six months of 2023.
Like its rival BP, Shell’s results immediately sparked calls for the Government to take a tougher stance against the oil majors.
Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said: ‘Shell reports £7.6 billion profits for its first quarter, yet the Tories refuse to bring in a proper windfall tax on oil and gas giants to freeze council tax this year, as Labour would.
‘We’ll tackle the cost-of-living crisis, and put working people first.’
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey called on the Government to close the ‘loopholes’ in the windfall tax which allow companies to offset their investments in the North Sea against tax.
‘Shell’s latest profits once again demonstrate the urgent need for a robust windfall tax on big energy companies,’ he said.
‘Rishi Sunak’s refusal to close windfall loopholes for big energy companies shows just how out of touch this Conservative Government is with the struggles that families are facing right now.’
> Fuel duty and VAT explained: How tax on petrol and diesel works and adds up