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9:45am on Sunday, 3rd October, 2021:



There's currently a petrol shortage in the UK, largely because the media have been telling everyone there's a petrol shortage in the UK. Yesterday, I got to the point when ordinarily I'd start to think about filling up (less than a hundred miles of fuel left), but I wasn't actually looking for any. As I drove past Sainsbury's, though, I noticed there were no queues so dropped in and filled up.

OK, so only half the pumps were working, suggesting there's still a supply problem, but basically after all the buy-it-before-it-runs-out people have filled their tanks there's plenty left for the people who are happy to pootle around with a tank three-quarters empty. The problems caused by a self-fulfilling media statement about fuel shortages is that people who aren't in the buy-it-before-it-runs-out category but nevertheless are low on fuel so do need to buy it are caught out.

In readiness for the next time we have a fuel shortage not caused by an actual shortage of fuel, I propose that the government give the Home Secretary the ability to declare a "demand cascade emergency", setting a minimum price threshold. If you want to buy more than, say, £50 of fuel then you're not affected. If you want to buy less than £50 of fuel, it'll cost you £50.

I'm sure forecourt owners will want money from the government to change the programming of their pay-at-the-pump systems in readiness for such an order, but the extra revenue they'll see from tossers who fill up their 80%-full vehicle regardless should be compensation enough.

Of course, there are multiple ways round this, but they'd all take time and effort to implement. Most people with half a tank of fuel left are going to think twice at the very least. Last weekend, demand for fuel was 500% more than usual; had it been only 200% more than normal it would still have been an issue, but it wouldn't have emptied the reserves in the petrol stations.

I realise this suggestion is unfair on people whose vehicles have small tanks, who pay less than £50 for a full tank anyway, but if in time knowledge of the existence of this rule reduces the number of motorcyclists on the road then I'm all for it.

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