Diesel ‘deeply engrained in our society’ — RAC

Demand for diesel fuel in UK continues to grow fast and will further outstrip domestic supply, according to RAC Foundation 

Diesel is “deeply engrained in our society” with demand for the fuel continuing to grow sharply despite increasing public concern over its impact on air quality, according to the RAC Foundation.

Demand for diesel in UK is expected to increase by 30% over next 15 years

Demand for diesel in UK is expected to increase by 30% over next 15 years

A report published today (September 16) by the transport policy and research charity — ‘Redressing the balance between petrol and diesel demand’ — suggests that demand for diesel could increase by as much as 30% by 2030, while demand for petrol drops.

Demand for diesel has risen 76% over the past 20 years, the report states, compared with a 46% decrease for petrol.

The report points out that the number of diesel cars has soared in recent years, from 1.6 million in 1994 to 11 million in 2014.

In addition, the number of heavy goods vehicles has also risen from 421,000 in 1994 to 474,000 in 2014. This is, it states, below the pre-recession peak of 510,000 in 2007 but is also rising again as the economy recovers.

The RAC report follows the launch of a consultation over Defra’s draft UK air quality plan, which puts forward measures for Clean Air Zones in a number of cities which would potentially charge diesel drivers for travelling in certain urban areas (see story).

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “Ministers have just announced plans to curb air pollution with potentially significant implications for the millions of households who run a diesel vehicle. As this report illustrates, diesel-engined cars, van and lorries are deeply engrained in our society.”


The report also highlights concerns over diesel supply and rising diesel prices in future. This follows reports over the summer that diesel fuel prices at the pumps had risen higher than petrol for the first time in 14 years (see story).

While the UK remains net exporters of petrol, in 2013 45% of the UK’s diesel needs were already being met by foreign supplies.

With diesel being sold twice as fast as petrol, the report claims that the gulf between UK supply and demand is set to accelerate, meaning a growing reliance on imported stocks. This will leave the UK “at the mercy of the global market” as it increasingly seeks diesel fuel from further afield.

RAC argues that this growing dependence on imports is partly down to the closure of three UK refineries in recent years and the large expense of retrofitting petrol refineries to produce diesel.

Mr Goodling explained: “The report also highlights another concern — the security of supply of diesel fuel. Today every other car bought is a diesel, but our refineries have struggled to keep pace with demand and have not attracted the investment they need to switch over from petrol production.

“Most of our refineries — some of which are more than half a century old – were built when diesel was a niche product. Retrofitting them is a billion pound decision that has failed to stack up for investors who see refining as a low margin business despite our sky high pump-prices. The result: since 2009 three UK refineries have closed, and others have been up for sale.

“That leaves us at the mercy of the global market and much of the rest of Europe is in the same boat. We are having to look further and further afield for the fuel we need. Recently motorists have benefitted from falling forecourt prices. We should be concerned about the potential for things to go the other way.”

Related Links:

-RAC Foundation report ‘Readdressing the balance between petrol and diesel demand’ by Nick Vandervell


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