Why Italy’s fuel prices are among the highest in Europe – and rising

A station attendant fills a car with petrol.
Methane gas has doubled in price in Italy. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP
Petrol, diesel and methane prices are surging in Italy along with household energy bills as the price of natural gas spikes across Europe. Here's how much prices are going up - and why the cost increases are hitting Italy so hard.

Fuel prices overall are now at their highest since 2014, while the cost of Italy’s cheapest fuel source, methane gas, has doubled according to fuel distributors.

Since the beginning of this year, petrol has gone up in price by over 15% according to motoring reports, meaning it now costs €11-13.50 more on average to fill up.

Figures for diesel are similar, with a 14.5% increase since the start of 2021, costing just under €12 extra for a full tank.

That means an expected average of €324 extra spend per family per year to run their vehicle.

Higher fuel prices further swell living costs for people in Italy, as electricity bills shot up by nearly 30 percent from Friday, while gas bills also jumped up by 14 percent.

READ ALSO: Rising energy prices: How to save money on your bills in Italy

Italy’s rising fuel costs for both petrol and diesel are among the highest in Europe, according to this chart using data from the European Commission and petrol station websites.

Only the UK, Finland, Denmark and Sweden are recording higher costs per litre of either petrol or diesel, according to the data.

France and Germany follow Italy for petrol prices while France comes second for diesel.

A man fills his van with petrol.
Fuel prices continue to rise, with methane doubling in cost. Photo: Franck Fife / AFP

In some parts of Italy, drivers with cars running on methane gas can expect to pay up to €2 per kilo – a 100 percent increase on the €1 per kilo that it was last week, according to news reports.

The latest hike, described as ‘skyrocketing’ by various Italian media outlets, marks yet another increase in the cost of this once much cheaper fuel source, as it has in fact reportedly tripled since the start of the year.

Italy’s national distributor of methane gas, Federazione Nazionale Distributori e Trasportatori di metano (Federmetano), stated that the value of methane gas has reached levels “no one would have ever imagined”.

It’s a blow to a sector that has been gaining in popularity, as Federmetano recorded consumption of this fuel in the first half of 2021 as 13% higher compared to the first half of 2020.

The organisation claimed this figure follows the progressive increase in the number of CNG (compressed natural gas) vehicles in circulation over the last five years, which produce much fewer carbon emissions than conventional petrol cars.

The trend threatens to put the entire transport sector that uses this fuel in crisis, with reports of firms that run on methane coming to a standstill.

A plant in Ferrara, Emilia Romagna, has had to close for a few weeks due to “the critical situation that the company is going through as a result of the increase in the cost of methane gas”.

Federmetano has explained that the sudden spike in costs is down to various factors, including low levels of storage at European sites due to a long winter and increased heating requirements, the Asian economy recovering with great demand for energy, ship supplies diverted to Asia and other markets generally willing to pay more.

READ ALSO: When can you switch on your heating in Italy this winter?

Cuts in supplies to Europe from Russia due to scheduled maintenance have also been noted, as have setbacks in authorisations for new imports, as Europe has decreased its production of natural gas.

This has left Italy vulnerable and unable to counter the cost increase as these developments are happening “at a level far above the bargaining abilities of road distribution entrepreneurs,” according to the fuel distributor.

Meanwhile, the cost of petrol and diesel has increased over the past three months, according to data from Italy’s Ministry for the Ecological Transition.

Petrol rose from €1.613 per litre in June to €1.654 per litre in August. For Diesel, the price jumped from €1.473 per litre to €1.505.

Over the last year, all fuel sources have gone up in price, based on the average monthly cost. Going back further to July 2020, petrol was recorded at €1.403 per litre and diesel at €1.289 per litre.

A graph showing the rise in petrol and diesel prices in Italy.
A graph showing the rise in petrol and diesel prices in Italy. Source: Ministry of Ecological Transition

The steep percentage increases are also partly due to the fact that some of Italy’s lowest fuel costs were recorded during the pandemic in 2020, with May seeing the greatest dip in the cost of petrol at €1.365 per litre.

Natural gas price increases are however causing a surge in energy costs across Europe and beyond.

Italy is particularly vulnerable to price shocks as it is highly dependent on imports and consumes a large amount of gas.

Some 40 percent of its primary energy consumption is gas, compared with about 15 percent in France, according to official statistics for both countries.

As Covid-19 restrictions ease, more economies are experiencing an upturn and one consequence is a refreshed demand for energy, affecting costs for running cars and homes.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said last week that many of the reasons for the energy price increases were temporary but called for long-term action, including at a European level, to address the problem, including through diversifying supplies.


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