Motorists feel petrol price pain

BY ADRIAN MILLER

LOW fuel prices are gone forever.

That is the view of some service station owners who believe petrol prices will not drop below $1 per litre.

"Don't be surprised if it goes up to $1.20," said Shell Tornick Roadhouse owner, Jack Durovic.

"Fuel at less than $1 per litre will be a thing of the past by the middle of the year ... I don't think we'll see it below that."

Yesterday prices throughout the Valley ranged from 97.7c at Harwood, 109.9c in Yamba to 106.9c in Maclean. In Grafton prices ranged from 99.9c to 105.9c, while along the Pacific Highway prices ranged between 102.9c and 105.9c.

Service Stations Association vice-president Doug Behn said because of the rising price of crude oil, operators had no choice but to increase prices.

"Some of the proprietors are reluctantly putting it up, but when their costs are more than what they're selling it for, they've got to," he said.

Yamba Ampol service station manager, Chris Ednie, said the small margins on fuel left him little choice but to increase prices.

"The price of crude oil keeps going up and up and we don't want to run fuel at a loss, so the only option is to keep putting it up," he said.

He said government taxes also played a part in keeping prices high.

"It doesn't cost a great deal per litre to refine the stuff, it's just at the moment the taxes and the price of oil are what's pushing the price up higher," he said.

Mr Durovic said with the increasing prices, and the bigger companies offering discount dockets, many smaller independent operators would go bust.

"They will drive lots of us out of business," he said.

"I can't see them operating for many more years."

Mr Behn agreed, and said motorists would suffer if that happened.

"Once they're (independents) squeezed out of the markets, I'd hate to think what the prices would be," he said.

In the Federal Court of Melbourne this week, Ballarat petrol companies were fined more than $23 million for a petrol price-fixing scam which ran from 1999 to 2000.



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