Analysis: Timing is all in avoiding a panic scenario
THERE is nothing with much greater potential to affect our day-to-day lives than a tanker drivers’ strike.
The oil supply chain is vulnerable to interruption at almost every level. The impact of concerted disruption at all eight UK refineries, not to mention oil terminals, is what really brings ministers out in a cold sweat.
If widespread disruption occurs, the government does have a strategy. If the army fails to adequately distribute fuel to where it is needed, then a pecking order is introduced.
The National Emergency Plan for Fuel “includes the possibility of rationing supply to retail customers, and prioritising emergency responders and essential service providers”. After this, any surplus will go to “truck shops and HGV motorway filling stations to help to keep supply chains operational”.
Ironically, one school of thought says a little bit of nervous buying by motorists need not be a bad thing. If worried drivers fill up their tanks before they would normally do so, while supplies are still being delivered, they are effectively creating a reserve of fuel.
Clearly, timing is everything, and cautious action can soon turn into panic purchases, straining the system to breaking and draining garages dry.
It is not a scenario the Prime Minister will want to see tested. He will be hoping the Unite union can reach an agreement with employers.
• Professor Stephen Glaister is director of the RAC Foundation
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Weather for Edinburgh
Friday 24 May 2013
Temperature: 2 C to 12 C
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Wind direction: North east
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