I propose to take Questions Nos. 410 to 412, inclusive, together.
Neither I nor the Commission for Energy Regulation have a statutory function in the monitoring or regulation of petrol and diesel prices.
The Irish oil industry is fully privatised, liberalised and de-regulated and there is free entry to the market. There is no price control and it is Government policy to encourage price competition and consumer choice.
The upward trend in petrol and diesel prices arises primarily from increases in international commodity prices over which Ireland has no control. For example, the benchmark spot price of a barrel of Brent Crude Oil has risen from an average of US$43 in February 2009 to an average of US$117 in February 2013. This has inevitably resulted in an increase in retail petrol and diesel prices.
Previous surveys have shown that prices charged by Irish retailers for oil products relate to the refinery price rather than to the price of crude oil. Prices at the pump reflect volatile market prices, transportation costs, trends in euro/dollar exchange rates and other operating costs, together with the impact of taxation on oil products.
The EU Market Observatory publishes an Oil Bulletin with current and historical oil product prices for all EU countries.
As of February 11th 2013, the price of petrol in Ireland was marginally below the EU average; while the price of diesel was 4.8% higher than the EU average.
If duties and taxes are stripped out then the price of petrol in Ireland was 98.5% of the EU average; and the price of diesel was less than 1% higher than the EU average.
Ireland’s concerns about high oil prices are shared at EU level and fellow Member Countries of the International Energy Agency (IEA). The EU and IEA agree that high fossil fuel prices, which pose a threat to economic recovery, underline the need to reduce dependence on fossil fuels by radically enhanced energy efficiency measures and the development of renewable energy.
The Biofuel Obligation Scheme incentivises and enables the sustainable growth of an Irish biofuels market. The Scheme currently requires that the amount of biofuel brought to the market is not less than 6.38% of petroleum road transport fuels. In 2011 some 145 million litres of biofuel were brought to the Irish market.
The development of electric vehicles offers potential for Ireland to use cheaper grid sourced electricity, an increasing amount of which is sourced from renewable resources.
These opportunities will progressively reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels for transport, while supporting energy competitiveness and security.