FUEL THE FIRE

By DAVID MOASE

'IN this game you take the good with the bad and, at this point in time, it's not rosy.'

Mobil Bailey Centre manager Paul Amos has seen plenty of ups and downs in his time as a fuel retailer and now, he says, is one of the down times.

World oil prices have risen above US$50 (A$63) a barrel, sending pump prices in a similar direction.

Mr Amos' service station was yesterday selling unleaded petrol for 109.9 cents a litre and diesel for 114.9 cents, but he says the high price does not equate to a big profit.

"Sometimes when the price of oil is low you can make money, but this is not one of those times," he said.

"At 109.9c we are losing money and just trying to keep up with Woolworths and Coles.

"With the oil price as it is, we should be selling at 116.9c."

The Coffs Coast Advocate yesterday found petrol prices around the city were generally in a band from 105.9c to 109.9c, with the Shell at Toormina, which provides driveway service, charging the highest price of 110.9c.

Rising petrol prices are yet another setback for people just getting used to last week's rises in interest rates and health insurance premiums.

Yesterday, comments about the Middle East by US president George W Bush were being blamed for forcing the price of oil to record highs.

With prices on the way up, discount schemes are increasing in popularity.

While the supermarket chains have turned the market upside down with their discounts, Coffs Harbour-based Beepp cards have also proved successful.

Founder John Wycke said 30,000 of the cards had been issued, offering $1 off the price of fuel.

"With prices how they are, the cards are offering consumers much-needed relief from the cost of petrol," he said.

"People buying petrol love it, as do the retailers who distribute the cards and the locally owned service stations.

"Shoppers can accumulate the cards and we heard of one person recently taking in $90 worth of cards, so they received what was effectively a free tank of petrol."

The scheme was launched last September and parent company EEP Australia has expanded it throughout New South Wales and into Queensland and Western Australia.

The United service station at Mullaway is traditionally one of the cheapest on the Coffs Coast but even its prices went up this week, reaching 104.9c.

Manager Leanne Dennis said the desire of the big petrol companies to buy up supplies before the price rises again was making it hard for the smaller operators.

"The big fuel companies are buying up fuel to try to secure their price and the lines of tankers waiting to fill up are getting longer," she said.

"As a result, we have had some of our deliveries delayed.

"We never run out of fuel but our tanks have got really low a couple of times recently."

Mrs Dennis said her service stations receives its deliveries from the Shell depot in Brisbane and United head office tells her what price to set.

Volatility in the market saw the service station move its price up and down twice last weekend, before raising it again on Tuesday.



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