OUR SAY: How the petrol shortage has us all under the pump

The prospect of much higher fuel prices is more than just an annoyance for cities like Orange and areas like the Central West.

Sharp increases in the price of staples like petrol and diesel will have an effect on families and businesses who do not have access to alternative transport.

The theory of supply and demand is supposed to set fair market prices for all kinds of goods and services.

But when many people in the region have no choice but to keep buying fuel, the theory breaks down a bit.

There’s a risk that residents will cut back on spending elsewhere, harming the wider economy.

According to the State government’s fuelcheck website unleaded E10 petrol in Orange now costs as much as 148.4 cents a litre.

Though international conflicts, especially in the Middle East, frequently cause fuel prices to skyrocket, this time the cause might fall closer to home.

The national petrol supply has dipped to such a low that it has prompted some in federal parliament to call for a review. 

As of last week, Australia has just 22 days worth of crude oil, 59 days of LPG, 20 days of petrol, 19 days of aviation fuel, and 21 days of diesel.

Australia had eight refineries back in the year 2000, but that number has fallen to four with the closure of South Australia's Port Stanvac, Sydney's Clyde and Kurnell refineries and Queensland's Bulwer Island facility.

The remaining large-scale domestic refineries have raised concerns about their future viability if the federal government proceeds with its plan for stricter emissions standards for unleaded petrol.

Back in Orange, children need to be driven to school, groceries need to be bought and livestock and produce needs to find its way to market.

During one of the previous petrol price spikes, the federal Senate’s Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee declared that “oil is a critical commodity that underpins much of our way of life”.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences noted that any prolonged spike in prices or disruption of fuel supplies could have significant economic and social impacts.

Hopefully either the government or industry can head off this crisis and preserve Australia’s economic growth.