Wales Runs Completely Out of Fuel
CARDIFF, Wales (AP) _ Motorists raced from one gas station to another Wednesday trying to refill their tanks before the Welsh capital ran dry, but by midday the last station was closed.
``Sorry, mate, no fuel,″ said attendant Robert Setchfield, holding up an empty nozzle to show a dozen impatient motorists lined up at the RM service station in Llamrumney.
Many of the drivers had stepped out of their cars to plead their cases personally.
There was a taxi driver, dependent on fuel to make a living; a nurse who needed her car to visit patients and a couple who live in the countryside where public transportation isn’t an option _ all drove away unsuccessful, their fuel gauges hovering just above empty as the fuel crisis which has seized Britain since Friday reached a critical stage.
The protests which began when a few dozen farmers and truck drivers blockaded oil refineries in northwestern England have now reached every area of the nation. Nearly two-thirds of Britain’s gas stations are empty.
Despite Prime Minister Tony Blair’s assurance Tuesday that oil deliveries would get back on schedule, residents in Cardiff _ one of the areas hardest hit by the fuel crisis _ feared it would only get worse.
Shoppers snapped up fresh bread and milk, emptying shelves in city supermarkets. The police warned motorists to lock their cars away at night to prevent thieves from siphoning off fuel.
During evening rush hour, a procession of slow-moving trucks and taxi cabs reduced traffic to a crawl as they blared their horns up and down the city’s main streets. Most pedestrians, despite complaining about the inconvenience of the crisis, cheered them on.
Britons pay $4.31 a gallon _ more than any other country in Europe. Taxes make up 74 percent of that cost, again the highest percentage in Europe.
``It is ridiculous how much the government takes out of us,″ said Stuart Murray, a dairy engineer from South Wales who joined the protest outside Texaco’s depot in the Cardiff Docks on Wednesday morning _ about 12 hours after Blair warned he would move to quickly end the crisis.
A dozen men kept up their vigil, chatting with police and reporters and quizzing any fuel tankers that drove out. All trucks leaving the gates claimed to be carrying supplies for emergency use only, said Karl Jones, a hauler who has been protesting at the site since Saturday.
Blair has refused to bow to the demonstrators, saying it would be irresponsible to adjust the country’s budget. Harold Jones, Karl’s father, kept up hope that the Labor Party government would soon cave in, like the French government did when faced with a similar crisis earlier this month.
``The French are to blame,″ said Margaret Thomas, who was stocking up on bread and canned food at a local supermarket. ``The protesters are following their lead.″
Others in Cardiff argued that the crisis has been a long time in coming. Truckers have long complained to the government about the high costs they pay compared to the rest of Europe, and earlier this summer, some British tabloids began a campaign to bring down high fuel prices.
``Something like this was bound to happen,″ said Peter Manders, a taxi driver who unsuccessfully tried to buy fuel on Wednesday. Tapping on his fuel gauge, he said he had only enough to last another day _ at the most.
``I don’t know what I’ll do then. Park my car wherever it stops. What other options do I have?″ he said.
But he supported the protesters. ``They are doing it for us,″ he said.
Government officials said services are still running, but it is a daily battle _ and no one was sure what Thursday would bring.
Keith Greet said he would probably just stop driving soon. A student, he depends on his taxi cab job to earn extra money, but the hassle of trying _ and failing _ to find fuel wasn’t worth it, he said.
``I think this is wrong,″ Greet said. ``You shouldn’t be able to hold a whole country to ransom like this. A whole country shouldn’t be allowed to be bullied like this.″