“We won’t visit grandma anymore”: The social costs of rising petrol prices gas prices

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The rising cost of driving in Britain is forcing people to economize on groceries and heating as turmoil in energy markets puts petrol prices on track to hit a new milestone of 160p a liter.

Simon Williams, the RAC’s fuel spokesman, said the speed at which fuel prices are rising means petrol is on a “rapid journey towards 160p a liter and diesel towards 165p”.

“Unfortunately, given the speed of the climbs, riders got to see this by the end of the week. Because these are averages, far higher prices will appear at gas stations across the country.”

Gasoline prices are tied to global oil prices, which have skyrocketed due to the war in Ukraine. Brent crude is now above $130 a barrel after hitting $100 a barrel for the first time since 2014, when Russia began its onslaught.

We spoke to readers about how higher petrol and diesel prices are affecting their lives.

Steve Bowater, NHS Delivery Driver, Sheffield

Steve Bowater.

Bowater drives about 1,000 miles a month to and from work and says high fuel costs are forcing him to make big changes, including eliminating meat from his diet and turning off the heating.

“I used to invest £24 or £25 [of diesel] in a week and it’s gone up to around £36,” said the 52-year-old. He considered taking a train instead, but the journey cost even more, “about £20 a day” and took much longer than a half-hour journey, at an hour and 40 minutes.

“I usually buy things like beef, chicken or pork — I had to cut everything away, I don’t eat meat at all,” he said. “It’s not a healthy food I’m swapping it for, it’s all carbs, which isn’t good.

“I live alone – I can do without heating, but not without diesel. When I have visitors I put it on for them when it’s cold outside. I’ve never had to do anything like this in my life.”

If fuel prices continue to rise, as some analysts are predicting, Bowater may need to consider taking on a second job to boost his income.

Gareth White, Incident Liaison Officer, Perthshire

Gareth White
Gareth White.

White, who lives in a rural village with his partner and four children, said higher fuel costs meant his family had to stop extracurricular activities for their two autistic children. Between commutes, school runs and supermarket trips, he and his wife drive 300 miles a week.

“It’s gone up a penny every day I drive by,” he says. The couple, who own two cars – one diesel, one petrol – used to spend £40 a month on petrol “but now it’s £70”. When it comes to diesel, the amount spent has gone from £30-40 a week to £50.

“The kids’ clubs and activities have been cut because we just can’t afford to put them there anymore,” he said. Using public transport is not an option as his children are overwhelmed with the crowds and noise.

“We’re not going away,” he said of lifestyle changes the family had to make. “We used to go to Glasgow to visit my grandma. We can’t do that anymore because we just can’t afford to drive out in the car.”

Anonymous, IT staff, West Midlands

The reader, who has not given his name, used to meet up with friends every week but has now reduced this to “once a month or so” to save money on fuel. However, due to the reduced social contacts, he feels isolated.

“I feel like my mental health is starting to deteriorate as I’m constantly thinking about almost every single trip I make in my car,” he said. “I used to visit my friends at least twice a week and now I only see them about once a month.”

The 44-year-old has also reduced his shopping sprees to save at a time when his energy bills are also rising.

“I am already feeling the pressure on living standards and in April it will only get worse [when national insurance contributions increase].”

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