Australians have a few interesting hobbies. One of them is guessing what the real temperature will be (because we never believe the weather forecaster) and another is complaining about fuel prices! Given that the price of fuel can fluctuate by 20 per cent overnight, it can be quite the shock to drive into the petrol station to fill up, only to find that it will cost an additional twelve dollars to fill the sedan than it would have cost the previous day! Interestingly, however, when it comes to international price comparisons, Australia is not too badly off. Here are some top fuel facts that will help you save money and reduce carbon emissions in the process.
The price cycles keep changing
Circa 2009, the price cycle seemed to run over seven days. Usually Tuesdays or Wednesdays were the best days to fill the tank with prices at their lowest mid-week. By 2014, however, the cycle had lengthened to an average of 15 days, meaning that motorists were never really sure when the prices would drop. For those who do a lot of driving and have to fill up once a week, they now purchase both at the top of the market and the bottom of the market in the 15-day period. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) continues to run investigations into the unpredictable fuel price cycle and the enormous fluctuations in prices over a 24-hour period however at the time of writing, there doesn’t seem to be a solution in sight for car owners.
What influences bulk fuel pricing in Australia?
The bulk fuel pricing trickles down to the bowser, affecting the final cost to fill a consumer’s car. It is influenced by the price of refined petrol on the international market, the exchange rate of the Aussie dollar against the US dollar, federal taxes imposed by the government, the wholesale/retail price margin, competition among retailers, the regular price cycles (primarily in city areas) and special offers run by individual brands or operators.
Biofuels in Australia
Environmentally conscious consumers prefer to use fuels that rely less on fossil resources. In Australia, the choices include E10 and biodiesel. The latter is made using a process called esterification and uses waste fats and oils. Not only does it use waste products that would otherwise be discarded (so it is carbon neutral), but biodiesel is biodegradable so it is particularly favoured in areas such as the forestry and fishing industries. It also produces significantly lower emissions.
Dispelling the myths about E10 fuel
Consumers can be hard to convince sometimes. Often, people assume that E10 fuel is an inferior product that could damage their cars’ engines. The fact is, E10 fuel a safe and reliable fuel that is used extensively all over the world. It will not void your car’s warranty and tests conducted on E10 and unleaded petrol by the NRMA showed that the performance levels in fuel consumption between the two fuels were minimal. “… fuel consumption can increase by 3-4 per cent when using an E10 blend in vehicles that do not have the capability to take advantage of E10’s higher octane, in which case the fuel consumption impact is small.”
Top fuel facts
Fuel docket discounts
- Venezuela is home to the cheapest fuel in the world. “We could wash our hands with it,” is a common statement.
- In Australia, the lowest average fuel prices are in Adelaide; the highest in Hobart.
- In January 2016, petrol prices dropped below $1 per litre for the first time since 2003.
- The Australian dollar moves in the same direction as oil. When oil is cheap, the Australian dollar is also cheap internationally.
- The Bureau of Resource & Energy Economics (Australian Petroleum Statistics) and the International Energy Agency (IEA) has reported that Australians pay among the lowest petrol and diesel prices of all OECD countries. Source.
- E10 is made from waste starch which is produced from an integrated manufacturing process. Since it’s a by-product of the process, it doesn’t affect the production of wheat for food.
- It is not illegal to produce your own biodiesel fuel.
- Adding just 20 per cent of biodiesel to regular diesel cuts down pollutants by around 50 per cent.
- Home producers of biodiesel literally use waste oil from local fish and chip shops and restaurants whose owners are glad to be rid of it at no charge.
- Some petrol station brands offer lower costs per litre of fuel when a consumer spends a certain amount on non-fuel items in-store.
Trying to muscle their way in to a bigger slice of the consumer spending pie, Woolworths and Coles supermarkets set up their own branded petrol stations in the early 2000s. To encourage consumers to buy their petrol, they offering fuel saver vouchers at the end of supermarket dockets that would provide a four cents a litre discount. Over time, they sought ever larger chunks of the pie and offered up to 30 cents a litre discount, according to the supermarket transaction value. The ACCC have since outlawed any practice beyond four cents a litre, saying that it was anti-competitive and that smaller, independent operators were being forced out of the market.
Get the Motor Mouth app
Find out where to buy fuel based on your current location, your preferred brand and fuel type and up-to-the-minute pricing by downloading the Motor Mouth app to your phone.
The reality of vehicle ownership is that you are subject to the wild fluctuations of petrol prices in your area. Hopefully, these top fuel facts have provided you with a little more insight into why you might pay more or less and how you can save by changing your purchasing behaviours and by buying E10 without worrying about your car’s performance.