It's rather amusing, really. The way all the filling stations in my area - I mean ordinary local ones, not the greedy filling stations on motorways or major routes - are all charging £1.99 per litre for diesel. If they are normally on the expensive side, then they hiked their price to £1.99 a week ago or more; if normally cheap, then they've only just reached that amazingly high asking price for a litre. But now that's where they're all stuck, and have been for days.
Nobody seems willing to risk bursting through the £2.00 per litre barrier! I dare say they would all very much like to, but they know full well that the first to raise their price by just 1p will instantly lose custom to the other filling stations, who will still be charging 'only' £1.99. And although everyone - filling stations and customers alike - knows full well that there's only an insignificant difference between £1.99 and £2.00, our brains perceive otherwise.
So customers will always tend to vote with their feet (or wheels in this case). Besides, to give willing custom to a filling station that has no scruples about charging more than £1.99 per litre is to encourage them to exact not just £2.00 but some higher amount, and then, soon enough, even more. Whatever they can get away with while the market remains free to fix its own prices. No retailer respects tame customer acquiescence.
Well, long may they hesitate over bursting through this particular price barrier. But of course commercial pressures will make them do it eventually.
I hear that in the remoter parts of the country even strictly local car fuel prices are already well in excess of £2.00. I'm bracing myself to pay £2.50 per litre in the far north of Scotland by September. But I'll pay it, and limit what I spend on other things. What is worth more - I shall ask myself - the pleasure of a day out to some spectacular place, with eye-popping scenery or historic interest, and great photographs to be had? Or the pleasure of buying and consuming a really nice lunch? Or of purchasing something special from a local craft shop?
Rising prices certainly make one consider the true value of paid-for goods and experiences. On the whole, I think that's a Very Good Thing. One ought to be discerning and discriminating. When you have plenty of spare cash, so much that you get careless about value for money, it's easy to spend, spend, spend without much thought, and waste money. A tighter budget is salutary. And it need not rule out acts of generosity to others, and to oneself.
So I shall make the most of my time in Scotland, but be more picky than usual about how I spend my pennies. There will be fewer long day trips, certainly none without definite objectives. Fewer lunches out, and fewer shop purchases. I shall still enjoy myself.
I suppose that in a few months' time the price of fuel will come down again, although not of course to where it used to be. It will remain expensive, and those countries that have oil in abundance will try to extort what they can from the rest. Or use their oil assets to exert influence, or secure advantages.
Every country in the world who wants to preserve its sovereignty will have to see how it can best be self-sufficient and fuel-secure. It's transparent now that countries offering cheap fuel expect something substantial and compromising for the favour, turning a straightforward supply deal into a devil's bargain. Conscience or voter-minded considerations will make the principled nations avoid 'tainted' fuel deals, and reluctantly pay over the odds for reliable supplies from better-trusted sources. And that in turn will make it all the more attractive to let go of oil as much as feasible, and adopt alternative power sources.
Aha, the sliver lining!
Hold on, planet Earth. You won't escape unscathed, but all is not lost.