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Quick to rise, slow to fall

Thursday, 7th August, 2008

Local motorists are being ripped off at the petrol pump, according to the NRMA.

While metropolitan centres like Sydney are benefitting from a fall in fuel prices, motorists in country NSW are paying more than they should, NRMA director Graham Blight said yesterday.

Petrol prices have fallen significantly in the State's capital and elsewhere over the past couple of weeks courtesy of a drop in the Singapore wholesale market price.

As a result, Sydney motorists were paying as little as $1.38 a litre for petrol yesterday.

But the fall has not been nearly as great in country centres including Broken Hill, where petrol is still selling forl over $1.60 a litre.

According to Mr Blight, Broken Hill should be paying only about five cents a litre more for petrol than Sydney.

He said it was obvious fuel companies were not passing on the savings to country motorists.

"We normally would say if it gets above a five cent difference (it's too much).

"Anything above that is a rip-off because average freight costs are under three cents a litre - what else have you got?"

Mr Blight said the fuel companies were taking advantage of the fact that people in the country relied more on their vehicles for transport.

"We just think that's a rip-off.

"They're very slow to put them down but very quick to put them up."

He said the price gouging had gone on long enough and it was time for the new petrol commissioner to investigate the fuel companies.

"Now we've got a price commissioner and he needs to do his job."

Local courier Stephen Treleven said there had always been a large disparity between city and country prices.

"That's always been the case," he said. "Ours tends to stay up longer and doesn't go down to the same level."

Mr Treleven's vehicles run on diesel which he said was about 20 cents a litre dearer in Broken Hill than Sydney.

"In the last six months my fuel bill has jumped by at least another 25 to 30 per cent.

"I can't change the way I operate. I have to go on regardless."

Mr Treleven, who runs four vehicles, said the government's diesel rebate would go some way towards controlling costs but he doesn't qualify.

The rebate applies to vehicles that weigh 4.5 tonnes or more and Mr Treleven's heaviest truck comes in just under that at 4.4 tonnes.

"I miss out on the diesel rebate that the bigger companies get," he said.

"It would make a pretty big difference to me."

Mr Blight said the NRMA believed the government should also be doing more to make existing alternative fuels more widely available.

He said that products such as the ethanol blended fuel E10 and Biodiesel, along with gas, would not only save motorists money but were better for the environment.

The government, he said, should be offering "tax holidays" to companies interested in setting up nationwide distribution systems so they can "get on and do it".

"You don't have to invent things, all you need is a distribution system.

"Increasing numbers of cars are being sold in Australia that are diesel (powered)."

And he said the government should be targeting the fuel industry in any plans it has to bring relief to motorists.

"The federal government gives the fuel industry $10 billion in subsidies and grants.  That should be phased out over the next few years."

Mr Blight said there was no "magic solution" to overcoming rising fuel prices, but rather a mix of solutions would be powering our vehicles in the future.

"There is no magic solution. It's a mixture of solutions that's oil, ethanol, biodiesel, gas, electricity and hydrogen.

"So you're going to have a mixture of these things."

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