The fuel discount of 35 cents per liter of petrol and 17 cents per liter of diesel has at least partially arrived at the petrol stations. According to calculations by the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis), petrol and diesel at German stations were recently cheaper or about as expensive as in most of the direct EU neighboring countries. However, fuel prices have risen again since the introduction of the tank discount at the beginning of June.
As Destatis determined based on data from the European Commission and the Market Transparency Unit for Fuels at the Federal Cartel Office, drivers in Germany paid an average daily average of 1.97 euros for a liter of premium E5 petrol and 2.06 euros for diesel on June 20. Compared to Germany’s neighboring countries, the price of premium petrol on that day was only lower in Poland at EUR 1.70, the Czech Republic at EUR 1.93 and Luxembourg at EUR 1.94. The same goes for diesel. On the other hand, on the day before the introduction of the tank discount, on May 30, premium petrol was only more expensive in Denmark and the Netherlands in relation to the neighboring EU countries. For diesel, this only applied in Denmark.
This means that gas station prices in Germany were lower in June than before the tax was reduced. At the end of May, premium petrol was still €2.21 per liter. The situation is different with diesel: This fuel was slightly more expensive in June than at the end of May. The state statisticians give an explanation for the price development. “One reason for the relatively lower prices in Germany is likely to be the temporary reduction in the energy tax on fuel as of June 1st, the so-called tank discount,” they write. In mid-June, the ifo Institute had already come to the conclusion in a European price comparison that the tank discount had depressed prices in Germany.
The ADAC automobile club assesses the situation at the gas stations quite differently. “The tank discount has only partially reached the consumer. When it comes to petrol, our calculations still show a reduction potential of at least 25 cents per liter,” said Jürgen Albrecht, fuel market expert at ADAC, in the WELT interview. Gasoline and diesel prices have decoupled from crude oil prices and the dollar-euro exchange rate in a way he hasn’t seen in decades.
“The gas prices here are enormously inflated. At the beginning of March, when the price of crude oil was similar to the current level, we already had gas station prices of around EUR 1.83 per liter of premium E10 petrol and that was without the tax cut of 35 cents,” said Albrecht. With diesel, the situation for consumers is much worse than with petrol. “For us, the sales prices at the refineries and wholesalers are incomprehensible. They are not related to the price of crude oil and the currency relation, as has been the case for decades,” said Albrecht. In addition, it is completely overlooked that before the introduction of the tank discount, there was an inflated starting level for gas station prices in Germany.
A comparison with other countries in Europe is not very meaningful. After all, each country takes different measures when it comes to gas station prices. “The prices can therefore hardly be compared with each other and the significance of price comparisons is very low,” said Albrecht. In France, for example, there is a price reduction of 15 cents per liter, which is granted directly at the checkout and cannot be seen on the price masts. In Poland, the state has reduced the VAT rate from 23 percent to eight percent. In Hungary, on the other hand, a government price subsidy of around 60 cents per liter only applies to vehicles with Hungarian license plates.
The automobile club’s criticism is directed at the business practices of the integrated oil companies, which are involved in all aspects of the business from oil production to processing to filling stations. “Margins at refineries have quintupled since the beginning of the year. The oil companies there are currently working with exorbitantly high profit margins,” said Albrecht. It is therefore urgently advisable for the Federal Cartel Office to examine the upstream stages of the value chain in the fuel business. “The level of competition in the refining business does not appear to be very consumer-friendly, to say the least,” said Albrecht.
For Federal Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP), the tank discount is a success. At the same time, the minister dampened expectations that there could be a follow-up rule after the end of September. “We cannot compensate for the long-term increase in prices for imported oil, the development of the dollar and the shortages in refineries with state money,” Lindner told the German Press Agency. The price level at the pump has fallen significantly in recent weeks. The development is better than abroad. The minister made a similar statement in WELT AM SONNTAG. “The idea was that the state would withdraw the energy tax for a quarter. But a permanent subsidization of increased world market prices would overwhelm even the German state,” Linder said.
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