Petrol prices across Australia are soaring, and it’s forcing people grappling with the cost of living to make tough calls
By Sourced Externally
October 3, 2023
Fuel prices have hit an all-time high in Perth and are soaring across the nation, and there’s no indication they’ll being going down anytime soon.
Residents are changing the way they commute amid soaring fuel prices
For some, that means quadrupling their commute time
High oil demand internationally and low supply are impacting costs
With everyday life expenses rising across the board, residents in Perth — traditionally a car-centric city that stretches almost 160 kilometres from north to south — are having to make tough decisions.
Software engineer Shouvojit Sarker is new to Perth’s roads. In fact, he just bought a new car.
But with fuel sitting above $2 a litre, he’s barely been behind the wheel.
“I was looking forward to driving everywhere to save time, [but] I have found myself actually cutting back,” he said.
Mr Sarker’s work is a 15-minute drive from his home in the southern Perth suburb of Cannington, but the journey takes more than an hour on buses and trains.
He’s now relying more on the city’s public transport system, and rideshare services, but said it would be a “nightmare” and “impractical” for those living in the outer suburbs doing day-to-day errands like groceries or school pick-ups.
“You’ve got two or three connecting buses, trains … how are you going to manage moving from one transport to another?” Mr Sarkar said.
“And wait times for transport are also high.
“You’re saving money, but it costs your time, which you could give to a second job.”
“It would definitely mean a longer journey … it’s not going to be nice, it will take the convenience away,” he said.
He said his friends, family and work colleagues were also feeling the impact of a higher cost of living.
Together, they’ve resorted to carpooling as much as possible.
“As a home owner, I’m kind of on the same boat. My monthly expenses have gone up, so I really can’t afford to use my car as much,” he said.
Mr Sarker said he was interested in electric cars, but considered them too expensive.
Fewer road trips
Andie Noon, who lives in Shelley in Perth’s suburban south, has also felt the pinch and it’s impacting her daily routine.
For her, it meant fewer holiday road trips, actively looking for cheaper fuel and staying close by when dropping her kids off to avoid extra trips.
“Going to the beach in the summer [is something] we really enjoy as a family,” she said.
“But with the rising petrol costs, instead of going four times a week during summertime, we’ll probably go once or twice.
“I guess that sort of does affect your level of enjoyment.”
Why is fuel so high?
The short answer is there is little control at a local level.
The cost of refuelling reached an all-time high in Perth on September 20, sitting at 223.5c per litre.
FuelWatch coordinator Kyle Huynh said petrol prices were relatively stable in the first half of the year but increased in July.
“Local petrol prices in Australia do tend to follow the Singapore price of petrol [which] has stayed elevated, so there’s an expectation that local prices will stay high for at least the short term,” Mr Huynh said.
The current price hikes were due to high international benchmark prices linked to crude oil prices, which have increased on the back of record high world oil demand and low oil supplies, according to Mr Huynh.
“Refiners struggled to keep up with demand growth … we found that many refineries were forced to run at reduced rates, and this was due to unplanned outages and the very high temperatures,” he said.
‘We just have to get off it’
Liam Wagner, an associate professor from Perth’s Curtin University, believes the global oil demand will continue, impacting local fuel prices.
The sustainable energy advocate said he wanted Australia to take a drastic step and eliminate oil altogether from its energy system by 2050.
“We just have to get off it … it’s a hard thing to say because, you know, in the short term, people are going to be paying more for their petrol, and that has a significant impact on people’s family budgets, which is awful,” he said.
“It’s going to be very difficult because oil is not just in petrol and diesel, it’s in everything … plastics, it’s in the clothes that we wear, the shoes that we wear … transport.”
Is fuel relief the solution?
The last time fuel prices rocketed to uncomfortable levels, in March last year, the Morrison government temporarily abolished the fuel excise.
Professor Wagner said he didn’t think a fuel excise cut this time around would be efficient or helpful and may do more long-term damage when fuel prices are “artificially lowered”.
“We’re fairly inelastic to changes in price for petrol … we won’t then change our demand in the long run for that gasoline,” he said.
He said the only way around high fuel prices was to make public transport free and to implement policies and strategies to allow people to shift to electric cars.
‘Not all doom and gloom’
Perth mum Stephanie Yeo is feeling much more optimistic about it all.
She said her family wasn’t necessarily tight for money but were still feeling the impact of high fuel costs.
Her strategy is to combine her family’s trips into one journey as much as possible.
“We plan our routes to go to different locations so we’re only using energy from one car,” she said.
Instead of driving, Ms Yeo’s family now walk to the local supermarket.
“Especially when the weather is actually a little bit warm, it’s a nice way to let the children get some vitamin D and get some exercise instead of driving to a park to play.”
Her family has invested in an electric car, but that doesn’t mean they can just drive around and “squander”.
“It’s upsetting when the living cost is increasing, but we’re people that say ‘OK, the glass is half full’.”