Because of the war in Ukraine, fuel prices have risen enormously. The federal government now wants to take countermeasures: From June 1st there will be a tank discount for drivers, which is limited to the end of August. The energy tax for fuel is to be adjusted to the European minimum – almost all neighboring countries have lower prices. The tax relief for petrol should be 35.2 cents per liter including VAT and 16.7 cents per liter for diesel. For example, if you fill the 55-liter tank of a VW Golf with petrol, you could save 19.36 euros according to this calculation.

The Federal Ministry of Finance, led by Christian Lindner (FDP), promises that citizens and companies will be relieved directly. “This tax reduction should be passed on in full to the end consumers,” the ministry assured WELT. In addition, the Federal Cartel Office, with its market transparency office for fuels, could in future examine more closely how the mineral oil companies set their prices.

However, there are doubts as to whether the tax relief on petrol and diesel will fully reach consumers. This is proven by a four-page statement by the Federal Cartel Office on May 12, which WELT has received. It says: It cannot be ruled out that “due to the limited intensity of competition in the fuel market, the providers will initially raise the prices before the reduction date, regardless of actual additional costs, in order to be able to carry out an apparently greater reduction in the sales price in the subsequent period”.

When asked, the head of the authorities, Andreas Mundt, said that the oil companies were not legally obliged to pass on the tax cut one-to-one. “On the other hand, we can stop illegal behavior and impose fines,” stresses Mundt. But high, even very high, prices as a result of the Ukraine war could not be banned. It is anything but easy to prove whether the corporations would use their market power to raise prices in a really abusive manner.

That’s why Mundt recently commissioned a “refining and wholesale-focused study” to monitor fuel price developments.

Experts also expressed their skepticism at a recent hearing in the Bundestag: The ifo Institute for Economic Research there doubted whether the tax cut would actually be passed on in full to companies and households. An empirical analysis of the temporary VAT reduction has already shown that in the case of fuel, only about two-thirds of the tax reduction was passed on to consumers. And Professor Matthias Kalkuhl from the scientific think tank “Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change” (MCC Berlin and Potsdam University) expected, according to the Bundestag, that the mineral oil companies would not be able to pass on 20 to 60 percent of the tax reduction volume.

Against this background, ADAC transport president Gerhard Hillebrand demands from the mineral oil companies that they “pass on the energy tax reduction to the consumers” and ensure a supply without bottlenecks. “Drivers are well advised to have their tanks partially filled at the beginning of the month so that they do not necessarily have to fill up in the first few days after the changeover,” said Hillebrand WELT. It could happen that the price reduction will only gradually be reflected at the petrol pumps.

Before the tax relief from Wednesday, fuel prices have risen sharply again. Both petrol and diesel are several cents more expensive compared to last week, as the ADAC announced on Monday. For example, Super E10 cost 2.129 euros per liter on a nationwide daily average on Sunday. That is 3.9 cents more than on Tuesday last week. Diesel cost 2.026 euros, an increase of 3.2 cents per liter.

E10 is thus continuing an upward trend that has been going on for around a month. At the end of April, fuel was more than 17 cents cheaper than it is now. In the case of diesel, on the other hand, it means a trend reversal after several weeks with a downward trend. The ADAC criticizes both values ​​as too high.

Professor Christian Küchen, Managing Director of the Fuels and Energy Business Association (en2x), says: After the start, there could be “a transitional period, since the fuels stored at the gas stations on June 1st are still subject to the previous higher tax rate.” Central Association of the Petrol Station Trade (ZTG), Jürgen Ziegner, assumes that prices on June 1 “cannot immediately fall by the magnitude of the tax cut,” he says. With the same reason: The goods in the depots of the gas stations at this point in time are still subject to the previous high tax.

The limited tank discount has meanwhile met with criticism even from the parties that form the government in the federal government. Baden-Württemberg’s Transport Minister Winfried Hermann (Greens) WELT said: “The tank discount is a short-term help, but it does not solve the fundamental problems. At the latest since the Ukraine war, everyone must have been clear: we have to use less oil.” Although the rebate would mitigate the cost increases caused by the war, fuel prices remained high.

“Everyone knows that fuel-guzzling cars are no longer the right choice,” Herrmann explained. The tank discount should not lead to “a lack of money for investments in sustainable mobility, i.e. public transport, walking and cycling”. According to Hermann, frequent drivers who have their own car benefit most from the tank discount.

Lower Saxony’s Transport Minister Bernd Althusmann (CDU) accuses the red-green-yellow federal government of doing a “traffic light experiment with an uncertain outcome”. Relief for drivers is correct, but a well thought-out overall concept is missing. “The tank discount falls just in the holiday season. And at the end of summer comes the rude awakening,” said Althusmann WELT.

He considers the period of the tank discount of only three months to be far too short. “The tank discount is not sustainable – and the traffic light has not yet revealed what will happen after that.” Bottlenecks at petrol stations are to be feared as of June 1, because huge demand will meet limited supply. “Queues and resentment are guaranteed. It would make more sense to lower the energy tax for two years,” says Althusmann.

The tank discount is expected to cost taxpayers a total of 3.15 billion euros because the federal government will have less revenue as a result. This caused criticism from the taxpayers’ association. President Reiner Holznagel says: “Short-term measures only mean a high level of bureaucracy and no long-term, structural relief across the board – but precisely these reliefs would be fair.”

Holznagel finds an adjustment of the income tax rate more sensible than a tank discount. In addition, the distance allowance for commuters should be increased from the current 38 cents to at least 40 cents per kilometer. And that should already apply from the first kilometer.” So far, this has only been the case from the 21st kilometer – and for the first 20 kilometers a rule of 30 cents applies.

The consequences of the increased fuel prices are currently the so-called tank fraud and tank tourism. More and more drivers are filling up without paying, which WELT AM SONNTAG reported on, citing figures from the state criminal investigation offices. Tank fraud and tank tourism could now, at least for the months of June to August, decrease because of the price reduction by the federal government. However, the Association of the Mineral Oil Industry, in which the major suppliers such as BP, Esso, Shell and Total are members, does not rule out temporary supply bottlenecks at individual filling stations. A sudden increase in demand is expected.

Duraid El Obeid, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Federal Association of Independent Petrol Stations (BFT), expects that in the near future there will be some petrol stations that will temporarily either not be able to buy enough mineral oil on the market or not be able to do so in time. Will they no longer be able to offer petrol or diesel at all? “You don’t know. They would then certainly raise the prices. In my opinion, however, vacancies will not only affect independent gas stations,” he says. The Central Association of the Petrol Station Industry also assumes that many motorists will find petrol stations with relatively empty underground tanks on June 1st and in the days that follow with their empty vehicle tanks. A larger number of vacancies is to be feared, especially in the case of free and medium-sized petrol stations.