What are we to make of last week’s deal to freeze oil output between Saudi Arabia and Russia – the world’s two leading crude exporters? Is it significant and is the price of oil now likely to rise?
This agreement is remarkable in the sense that there typically isn’t much love lost between Riyadh and Moscow. While Saudi has traditionally been the beating heart of Opec, Russia has always sat staunchly outside the 56-year old oil exporters’ cartel, just like the Soviet Union before it. The fact that the Desert Kingdom has long been a US-ally (albeit to varying degrees) has also helped stoke Russo-Saudi tensions.
The UK remains locked in the grip of petrol panic. Just the prospect of a tanker drivers’ strike, with the Easter holiday season looming, and we lost our collective nerve. Snaking petrol station tail-backs became commonplace and jerry can sales soared. On Friday, a third of UK filling stations actually ran out of petrol, with demand up 170pc on the same day the week before.
Some say the Tories deliberately stoked the petrol panic, to get rows over cash-for-access Downing Street dinners and post-budget “granny-tax” squirming off the nation’s front-pages. Ministers will certainly have known that a potential fuel crisis piles serious pressure on Labour, given the party’s financial reliance on Unite, the union representing the 2,000 fuel tanker drivers threatening to strike. Fearing public opprobrium, perhaps, Unite late on Friday ruled out industrial action over the upcoming Easter weekend. Yet, still, the panic buying continued.