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Fact Check-Britain’s petrol crisis is not a ploy to ‘sell off’ fuel stockpiled during lockdown

Claims on social media that Britain’s fuel crisis has been staged to force consumers into buying a surplus of petrol stockpiled during COVID-19 lockdowns are “completely absurd,” a UK business department spokesperson has told Reuters.

Thousands of people have shared a meme on Facebook (here and here) that suggests reports of petrol stations running dry are part of a wider ploy to “sell off” leftover stock before it expires.

“Hasn’t it occurred to you during the lockdowns, many people weren’t driving their vehicles and so there was a surplus of fuel,” the meme says. “Well did you know FUEL EXPIRES! So what do they do to sell off their surplus fuel before it expires?

“Pretend there’s a shortage so you’ll have it in your tank instead of them having to get rid of expired fuel and lose money.”

Petrol pumps across various cities in Britain ran dry on Sept. 27 after reports of supply chain issues prompted widespread panic buying of fuel (here).

However, a spokesperson for the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said it was “completely absurd” to suggest this was result of a ploy to sell surplus fuel.

The spokesperson told Reuters via email: “We are aware that some petrol stations have had to temporarily close in response to localised spikes in demand. This is not in response to a national shortage; there is plenty of fuel at refineries and terminals.”

At least one company has placed a purchase limit on fuel due to demand from panic buying. EG Group has given customers a 30 pound ($41) limit on petrol – a limit that excludes HGV drivers and emergency services (here).

On Sept. 23, oil company BP said it had temporarily closed some of its petrol forecourts after its ability to transport fuel from refineries was hit by an industry wide shortage of lorry drivers (here). Other companies, along with Britain’s food sector, have also been impacted (here).

The trucking industry is said to need another 90,000 drivers to meet demand after Brexit made it harder for European workers to drive in Britain, and the pandemic prevented new workers from qualifying.

VERDICT

False. There is no evidence that Britain’s fuel crisis is a result of a ploy to sell surplus fuel. It is due to an industry wide shortage of lorry drivers.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here.

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