High fuel prices despite falling oil prices: who is cashing in here?

After the record levels of recent times, petrol and fuel prices have fallen again by several cents per liter. Premium petrol cost an average of 2.218 euros per liter, Super E10 2.160 euros and diesel 2.253 euros (prices as of March 16). But the high price level of well over 2.20 euros remains. Only: There is no reason for this on the oil market! In fact, the price of crude oil is a long way off the highs of the past few days, falling below $100 a barrel after peaking well above $130 on March 9th. Nevertheless, motorists rub their eyes in view of the high fuel prices. Who collects the drivers here?

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Are speculators at work when it comes to fuel prices?

Sven-Christian Kindler, the budget spokesman for the Greens in the Bundestag, now expresses a suspicion on “Deutschlandfunk”: He suggests checking whether the sharply increased prices for petrol and diesel are based on illegal price agreements between the mineral oil companies? He suspects “that billions in profits are made here at the expense of motorists”. Kindler literally spoke of “war profiteers” who would benefit from the war in Ukraine. Rolf Mützenich, SPD parliamentary group leader in the Bundestag, made a similar statement: “Here there has been speculation about the price of petrol, which visualizes a massive increase at the petrol pumps”. Baden-Württemberg Finance Minister Danyal Bayaz (Greens) wrote on Twitter: “My impression is that a few oil multinationals are making the big bargain.”

Because the prices for petrol and diesel have not fallen to the same extent as the price of oil, Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck (Greens) has therefore asked the Federal Cartel Office to examine the situation. The authority should “take action if there is any indication of abusive behavior”. The Federal Cartel Office announced that it would examine all market levels.

“Money gets stuck between oil production and gas station”

Because the ADAC is also critical: “Despite all the war-related special effects and explanations for the high fuel prices – somewhere between oil production and the gas station, the additional driver’s money gets stuck,” says fuel market expert Jürgen Albrecht. “The mineral oil companies are currently making really good money in the refinery business .” This is particularly unfortunate, since fuel-efficient driving alone cannot reduce the fuel bill.

Crude oil and fuel prices are out of step

Gas price board at gas station

Most recently, motorists had to get used to diesel prices around 2.40 euros and petrol prices around 2.30 euros.

The problem is that the prices for crude oil and the combustion products made from it, i.e. gasoline and diesel, which normally move in sync, have decoupled from each other. While the maximum prices for fuel with crude oil prices peaking at 139 dollars could still be explained, the price of oil is now a third lower. One possible reason: The expected price development is priced into the markets. In addition, the price depends on the current offer. Commodity traders can thus control the price level by reducing or increasing the supply. This is confirmed by Jürgen Ziegner, managing director of the petrol station association ZTG: Especially in the case of diesel and diesel-like products, less is produced in Germany than is consumed. A relevant part of the import has so far come from Russia, but many traders are already anticipating a possible import ban. As a result, fuel is becoming scarcer and therefore more expensive. There is also fear and speculation.

This is to make things easier for drivers

Those who are out of the price speculation are probably the gas stations themselves. They hardly have any opportunity to help shape the prices. All in all, the pressure on politicians to cushion the high fuel prices with discount vouchers or a fuel subsidy is growing. This is justified with the imprecise effect, from which wealthy drivers would also benefit. The social association VdK warns of consumer relief “according to the watering can principle”. Instead, the social needs of the recipient should be taken into account, said President Verena Bentele of the “Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung”. Instead, she calls for vouchers for low earners and pensioners.

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