At Germany's gas stations, an unusual phenomenon seems to be a thing of the past: the inverse price relationship between petrol and diesel at gas stations.

Although diesel fuel is taxed less than petrol in Germany, it has been noticeably more expensive than Super E10 at the filling station in recent weeks.

That's different now, as the General German Automobile Club (ADAC) reported on Wednesday in its weekly evaluation of prices at more than 14,000 gas stations.

Development seems to have started last week.

Christian Siedenbiedel

Editor in Business.

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The main reason for this is a rise in the price of Super E10.

According to the ADAC, a liter of Super E10 currently costs 2.090 euros on average nationwide.

This means that petrol has become 5.4 cents more expensive within a week.

On the other hand, there is a slight relaxation in the case of diesel fuel: drivers currently have to pay 2.028 euros for one liter, which is 2.1 cents less than a week ago.

This has reversed which of the two types of fuel at the petrol station is the more expensive.

And the gap is now at least a good 6 cents again.

Diesel has been more expensive since the beginning of March

Cheaper diesel is actually the norm: after all, diesel is taxed less than petrol.

The tax benefit is 18 cents per liter.

That's why diesel is usually a little cheaper than petrol, around 14 cents on average in recent years.

On the other hand, diesel vehicles are often a bit more expensive.

The coalition wants to get the tax advantage, but the corresponding regulation has not yet been changed.

The coalition agreement does contain a passage on “the tax harmonization of diesel fuel and petrol”.

So far, however, the law has not changed.

The unusual phenomenon of more expensive diesel had occurred nationwide for the first time since the beginning of March.

Until then, this had only happened regionally.

The difference in the prices of the two types of fuel at the gas stations varies from time to time, as reported by the ADAC auto club.

In winter, when there is a lot of heating, diesel is slightly more expensive than usual because the production of diesel and heating oil are linked.

In the summer, Super E10 is often more expensive than usual when the travel wave is rolling in many countries.

But the fact that diesel was more expensive than petrol after taxes was unusual.

In 2019 there was a situation where the price difference between the two types of fuel had shrunk to 7 cents.

At that time there were individual gas stations where diesel was more expensive than petrol - but that was not the case on average nationwide.

At that time, petrol experts had identified not only seasonal factors but also the strong economy as a reason.

The economic development is reflected more strongly in the price of diesel than in the price of petrol.

There are various reasons for this, one of which is that trucking and haulage companies in a good economic situation demand more diesel than usual for trucks. 

The Federal Cartel Office examines

The Bundeskartellamt is still investigating whether the high fuel prices at the beginning of the Ukraine war have also led to violations of competition law.

This is to be determined in a so-called “ad hoc sector analysis”.

The so-called gross fuel margins had risen sharply, as Monika Schnitzer from Munich emphasizes.

The gross fuel margin for diesel in Germany was 28.82 cents per liter in March.

the average for the previous year was only 13.43 cents.

In Austria, the margin was 14.10 cents in March, compared to an average of 13.93 cents in the previous year.

"These are the gross margins, from which you can't yet tell who benefits from them, whether it's a petrol station or a refinery," said Schnitzer.

But experience has shown that the profit margins for the gas stations are very low, said the economist: "And the increase in gross margins is striking."

First of all, the high diesel prices at the beginning of March were primarily interpreted as a consequence of the Ukraine war: Many private households quickly ordered heating oil because they were afraid of sharp price increases if oil and petrol were to stop coming from Russia.

This drove up the price of heating oil and with it the price of diesel.

The economy, which picked up again after the lockdowns, may also have supported demand for diesel.

In addition, more diesel than Super E10 comes directly from Russia, which was also cited as a reason why diesel rose even more in the price of petrol.

At the time it was said that there was no import ban on diesel from Russia, but many dealers were cautious because of the sanctions.

"There is a shortage of diesel, although there is actually enough diesel available,"

Relaxation on the heating oil market

Now the relaxation on the heating oil market could also have contributed to the fact that diesel is no longer quite as expensive.

After all, it is warm, demand is lower, and at the same time possible panic buying seems to be over for the time being.

In any case, according to figures from the Heizoel24 Internet portal, to which 500 oil traders report their prices, the price of heating oil has fallen from around 214 euros for 100 liters at the beginning of March to 128 euros now.

It has therefore almost halved in around two months.

This is already noticeable in the inflation rates.

From March to April they did not rise quite as much as before.

However, an ADAC spokesman emphasized that it was not primarily the fall in diesel prices that caused the price ratio between petrol and diesel to “normalize” – but the “unreasonably sharp increase in the price of petrol”: “Its level was previously already clearly too high - now it is being raised again."