Hungarian filling stations running out of price-capped fuel

Dec 2, 2022, 12:37 AM | Updated: 1:00 am
A driver fills up his car while sign on pump reads 'Dear Costumers! You can purchase only 2 liters ...

A driver fills up his car while sign on pump reads 'Dear Costumers! You can purchase only 2 liters of fuel at the regulated price!' in Martonvasar Hungary, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. Drivers in Hungary are running into fuel shortages at filling stations as a government-imposed price cap on fuel squeezes independent stations and leaves the state energy company struggling to keep up with demand. (AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky)

(AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky)

MARTONVASAR, Hungary (AP) — Drivers in Hungary are increasingly running into gas and diesel shortages at filling stations as a government-imposed price cap squeezes the operators of independent stations and leaves the state energy company struggling to keep up with demand.

At hundreds of fuel stations across Hungary, a confusing mosaic of paper signs hang from the pumps to let customers know what is available — or not — and at what price and quantity.

A sign at one station in Martonvasar, a town 20 miles southwest of Budapest, Hungary’s capital, informs motorists they may only purchase two liters (a 1/2 gallon) of fuel at a reduced price set by the government more than a year ago. The quantity limit, the station’s owner said, is the result of state energy company MOL failing to make any fuel deliveries to his business and many others like it for the past three weeks.

“They reduced the supply to exactly zero, so fuel with a regulated price completely disappeared from the market for these stations,” said Laszlo Gepesz, who owns the small station and is co-chair of Hungary’s Association of Independent Filling Stations.

The cap on fuel prices that Hungary’s populist government imposed in November 2021 set the maximum price for gasoline and diesel at 480 forints ($1.22) per liter.

As market prices kept rising, especially following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, Hungary’s fuel imports plummeted; foreign suppliers found the country a less attractive place to sell given the mandated discount prices.

That left only the state energy company to produce diesel and gas for selling at the reduced rate, but it has strained to supply the cheaper fuel for the entire country.

MOL says its refinery in the central Hungary town of Szazhalombatta is only operating at around 50% capacity due to technical difficulties. Interruptions to Hungary’s oil supply through the Druzhba, or Friendship pipeline, which delivers crude to Hungary from Russia via Ukraine, have also contributed to lagging supplies.

MOL did not respond to a request for comment.

During the more than a year the price cap has been in place, consumption has soared, said Gepesz, the Martonvasar station owner, exacerbating supply problems which have affected as many as 500 stations across Hungary.

“Things that are cheap run out more easily, so people are buying fuel like there’s no tomorrow,” he said. “The country’s total consumption (of fuel) is around 20 to 25% higher than it was last year, an amount that not even MOL is capable of supplying.”

Speaking at a Wednesday news conference, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff, Gergely Gulyas, said the price cap — set to expire on Dec. 31 after being extended several times — could only remain in place as long as MOL is able to keep up with demand.

“If it can’t, and if (fuel) has to be imported, then obviously the import price is much more expensive. So the question is for how long we can supply the country with gasoline and diesel,” Gulyas said.

Hungary is highly dependent on Russian oil and gas. Its government has campaigned vigorously against European Union sanctions against Moscow– especially those that would affect the import of fossil fuel products — and blamed them for rising energy prices and soaring inflation.

Marika Vastag, 73, a farmer in the village of Pusztaszabolcs, filled up a 10-liter jerrycan with gas on Wednesday, paying the market price since discounted fuel had not been delivered to the station in more than two weeks.

She echoed Orban’s claims that EU sanctions against Russia were primarily responsible for the increase in energy prices, and blamed the bloc for pressuring Hungary to wean itself off Russian fossil fuels.

“Things would be better if the (European) Union would quit giving us a hard time and stop demanding that we get off of Russian energy because, unfortunately, we are dependent on them for fuel and oil,” Vastag said. “Unfortunately, we aren’t independent, we don’t have everything (we need.) So we have to stick with those that help.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


              A view of a sign on a fuel pump at a petrol station reading 'Dear Costumers! You can purchase only 2 liters of fuel at the regulated price!' in Martonvasar Hungary, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. Drivers in Hungary are running into fuel shortages at filling stations as a government-imposed price cap on fuel squeezes independent stations and leaves the state energy company struggling to keep up with demand. (AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky)
            
              A driver fills up his car while sign on pump reads 'Dear Costumers! You can purchase only 2 liters of fuel at the regulated price!' in Martonvasar Hungary, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. Drivers in Hungary are running into fuel shortages at filling stations as a government-imposed price cap on fuel squeezes independent stations and leaves the state energy company struggling to keep up with demand. (AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky)

AP

FILE - A fuel trucks drives along a highway in Frankfurt, Germany, Jan. 27, 2023. European Union go...
Associated Press

Europe bans Russian diesel, other oil products over Ukraine

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Europe imposed a ban Sunday on Russian diesel fuel and other refined oil products, slashing energy dependency on Moscow and seeking to further crimp the Kremlin’s fossil fuel earnings as punishment for invading Ukraine. The ban comes along with a price cap agreed by the Group of Seven allied democracies. The […]
7 hours ago
FILE - Outgoing British Prime Minister Liz Truss speaks outside Downing Street in London, on Oct. 2...
Associated Press

It wasn’t me: Ex-UK PM Truss blames ‘system’ for her failure

LONDON (AP) — Former British Prime Minister Liz Truss says her failure wasn’t her fault. Truss on Sunday blamed a “powerful economic establishment” and internal Conservative Party opposition for the rapid collapse of her government, and said she still believes her tax-cutting policies were the right ones. Britain’s shortest-serving prime minister resigned in October, six […]
7 hours ago
Two men share a meal in a makeshift tent camp outside the Petit Chateau reception center in Brussel...
Associated Press

EU migration impasse leaves many refugees out in the cold

BRUSSELS (AP) — Some refugees and asylum-seekers in Brussels have been spending months in between the Street of Palaces and the Small Castle — quite literally. Unfortunately, it’s not a dream come true at the end of their fearful flight from halfway across the globe. It’s a perpetual nightmare. Petit Chateau, which means small castle, […]
7 hours ago
Items are displayed in the "Boutique" at the Insight Women's Center, where clients can find clothes...
Associated Press

US states take control of abortion debate with funding focus

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Though the Insight Women’s Center sits at the epicenter of a reinvigorated battle in the nation’s culture wars, the only hint of its faith-based mission to dissuade people from getting abortions is the jazzy, piano rendition of “Jesus Loves Me” playing in a waiting room. The Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature is considering […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

India’s G-20 energy meet to balance renewables, fossil fuels

BENGALURU, India (AP) — Over 500 energy industry heavyweights and 30,000 participants will descend on the southern Indian city of Bengaluru on Monday to discuss the future of renewables and fossil fuels at India Energy Week — the first big ticket event of the country’s presidency of the Group of 20 leading economies. Speakers, including […]
1 day ago
FILE - Mega Millions lottery tickets and a wager slip are displayed, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, in Derry...
Arizona Sports

Drawing nears for $700M Powerball prize, 10th biggest in US

Another huge lottery jackpot will be on the line Saturday for players willing to put up $2 vs. daunting odds of actually winning the prize.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

(Pexels Photo)...

Sports gambling can be fun for adults, but it’s a dangerous game for children

While adults may find that sports gambling is a way to enhance the experience with more than just fandom on the line, it can be a dangerous proposition if children get involved in the activity.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
Hungarian filling stations running out of price-capped fuel