UK Treasury chief calls on Opec to raise oil supply

Britain’s Treasury chief, Gordon Brown, on Tuesday will call on Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) countries to boost oil production and demand coordinated international action to stabilise the world oil market.

Brown, in effect, is rejecting calls from a group of fuel protesters who plan a three-day demonstration at refineries beginning on Wednesday to support demands for relief from Britain’s high fuel taxes.

The price of unleaded petrol in some areas of Britain has nudged past £1 (R11,63) per litre. Taxes represent about 47% of the pump price.

The threat of action against refineries has alarmed motorists, and queues have grown at petrol stations as car owners fill up to guard against any interruption of fuel supplies. A few dealers reported running out of fuel because of heavy demand.

British Treasury officials said Brown will call on Opec to open its books to improve the transparency of the world’s oil reserves.
In a speech to trade unionists in Brighton, southern England, he will also call for greater investment in alternative sources of energy, said officials briefing reporters in advance.

The Treasury said Brown will present his plan to the annual meetings of the Group of Eight major industrialised countries, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Opec meets later this month.

The Fuel Lobby, a loosely organised protest group, is calling on the public to “attend” oil refineries from Wednesday morning to begin their protests.

“We are not calling for a blockade, but if oil companies decide they cannot send out lorries while there is a public presence at their site, then that is a matter for them,” said Fuel Lobby spokesperson Andrew Spence.

The protest nonetheless revived memories of wildcat blockades of refineries in 2000, when nearly a week of protests dried up supplies.

Ray Holloway, director of the Petrol Retailers’ Association, said the surge in demand is not on the scale of panic five years ago.

“If people are complaining about the price of fuel, it seems bizarre that they will invest in this fuel—put it in their tank—and not use it for a lengthy period of time,” Holloway said on Monday. “If people really do buy in the normal way, fuel will be available on the forecourts when they need it.”—Sapa-AP

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