Is there a threat of high gasoline prices because of the low water level?

D.he Rhine currently has little water – and thus brings back memories of autumn 2018, when low water and transport difficulties drove gasoline prices in Germany to record highs. In the past few days, large ships have only been able to travel with half the usual cargo if they wanted to pass the tricky parts of the Rhine near Kaub not far from the Loreley rock.

This could also have consequences for the petrol price, says fuel expert Steffen Bock from the Clever-Tanken internet portal: “Low water tends to have an impact on fuel prices on water transport routes such as the Rhine – due to the distance from Rotterdam, especially in the south of the country.”

Higher oil prices on world markets

Most gasoline experts attribute the price increase for petrol and diesel since the beginning of November, which can be observed despite the “lockdown light”, to the increased price of crude oil on the world markets. From a situation like at the end of 2018, when the price for diesel at times reached 1.45 euros and that for Super E10 even 1.54 euros per liter, one is in any case a long way off, according to the Mineralölwirtschaftsverband and the Federal Association of German Inland Shipping.

“Basically, lower water levels lead to higher logistics costs, but we are a long way from a situation like in autumn 2018, especially since there is currently and in the medium-term forecast significant rainfall in the Rhine catchment area,” said a spokesman for the mineral oil industry association: “It there is sufficient transport capacity and therefore no restrictions on the Rhine. “The Inland Shipping Association says:” The water levels on the Rhine have been rising again for a few days – the situation in 2018 was completely different, as extremely low water levels prevailed for months and in some cases record lows were measured. ”This year, they are“ far away ”from such an exceptional situation.

Another major difference to 2018, in addition to the extent and duration of the low water: The demand for gasoline is currently much lower than it was then. Even if the traffic is no longer as quiet as it was during the first lockdown in spring, it remains significantly reduced. Especially the rush hour traffic is lower. The figures for gasoline sales in Germany are still well below those of the previous year. The last published sales volumes showed a decrease of 10.2 percent for gasoline and 7.9 percent for diesel. Accordingly, petrol stores do not run out of fuel that quickly. Before the shortages result in noticeably higher prices, a lot has to come together.

There were gas station boycotts two years ago

Nevertheless, petrol and diesel are no longer as cheap as they were recently. On a nationwide average, a liter of diesel now costs EUR 1.088 and a liter of Super E10 costs EUR 1.217, reports the ADAC car club. Since the beginning of November the prices for both types of fuel have increased, for diesel by around 5 cents and for Super E10 by 4 cents per liter. One does not want to rule out that the low water also played a role regionally, said an ADAC spokesman. But this cannot be said for sure based on the statistics. On a weekly basis, the price of diesel rose by 0.8 cents, while that for Super E10 fell by 0.3 cents.

Two years ago, the sharp rise in gasoline prices in the fall sparked debate. There had even been calls to boycott gas stations on certain days. Many motorists were suspicious of whether the extreme prices were really caused by the low water level – or whether those involved in the value chain had expanded their margins under this pretext. Energy specialist Manuel Frondel from the research institute RWI published an analysis according to which the low water level was a “major reason” for the high fuel prices – if not the only one.


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