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Germany

German Drivers Angry Over Easter Gas Price Hike

Drivers in Germany are becoming increasingly angry about rising prices for gasoline which have seen a new record for this year -- just in time for the Easter holidays.

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That Easter Sunday drive is going to be a lot more expensive this year

For German drivers, prices at the pump these days are causing a feeling of déjà vu. Just as in previous years around the Easter holidays, the price for premium petrol, for example, has climbed to a new annual record -- this time hitting 1.36 euros ($1.64) per liter, or 6 euros per gallon.

In the land of Mercedes, BMWs and no speed limits on highways, this sharp rise by more than 5 eurocents really hurts and has drivers calling for punitive action.

"I think there is a lot of speculation going on in the markets now," one driver commented, adding that it's time the authorities stopped oil companies from driving petrol prices ever higher.

Urlaub auf der Autobahn

Holiday time in Germany means increased traffic on the roads

Many motorists, however, feel the government is part of the problem as it has been imposing more and more new taxes on fuel in recent years.

Taxes, drive for profits to blame

In the past few years, petrol prices have indeed climbed steadily -- partly as a result of a so-called ecology tax imposed on fuels and energy in Germany. But consumer advocacy groups are claiming that oil companies have used this as a pretext to raise prices excessively.

They also accuse oil companies of using days of heightened traffic, such as the long Easter weekend, to rake in easy profits.

Rolf-Peter Rocke of the German ADAC motorists' association says this practice is especially apparent in regions with few petrol stations.

"Companies are cashing in especially in regions where there is little competition," he said. "On the island of Rügen for example, people can hardly compare prices because there are only around five petrol stations. In towns and cities, however, drivers have this option and should now really make use of their freedom to choose so that prices will eventually come down again."

US situation also a factor

But Heino Elfert from the German energy watchdog Energieinformationsdienst says oil companies are only partly to blame for the current sky-high prices.

"As in previous years around this time, petrol prices have even outpaced high prices for oil because of depleted gasoline stocks in the United States," Elfert said. "Since American refineries are unable to meet the domestic demand they need to buy huge volumes of gasoline on the world market."

For German drivers, understanding the causes of their pain at the pump is just cold comfort. Increasingly, German consumers are buying cars that run on alternative fuels such as natural gas or diesel made from rapeseed.

But in spite of the boom in automotive alternatives here, the next public outrage over petrol prices is just as sure to come as the next holiday season.

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