The traffic light reduces the energy tax for fuel for three months. The government wants to relieve drivers with this. However, the probability is high that the money will end up with the wrong people.

The federal government is reducing the energy tax on petrol and diesel for three months from June 1st: The price of petrol is then to drop by 30 cents per liter and for diesel by 14 cents per liter. The Treasury thus waived a large part of the energy tax – a measure from the second relief package of the traffic light. So the fuel should be cheaper when refueling. Prerequisite: The gas stations are involved here.

Also read on the subject: Gasoline tax, commuters, nine-euro ticket – the traffic light relief package is coming: What is paid when and to whom

However, Aral, Esso, Agip and all the other oil giants have no obligation to lower prices. In East Berlin, for example, a liter of Super E10 currently costs 2.03 euros and a liter of diesel costs 1.94 euros. At the beginning of June, the prices would have to fall to 1.73 or 1.80 euros – if the gas station groups were to pass on the tax reduction one-to-one. If you also include the VAT share that was avoided in this way, the prices for Super and Diesel would even be 1.68 and 1.77 euros respectively – and thus around the same price level as before the start of the war in Ukraine.

However, as of the deadline of June 1st, nothing will change in fuel prices for the time being. Because the energy tax is already due at refineries. The fuel that is in the gas station’s warehouse on June 1 is usually still subject to the old tax rates and is therefore more expensive to buy. And whether the petroleum companies and ultimately the local gas station operators will then pass the tax reduction on to customers when the camps are filled with the tax-reduced fuel is, according to many experts, completely open.

Since the beginning of the war, consumer advocates have accused the oil companies of being a rip-off at the expense of motorists. The portal calculated that the contribution margin – i.e. also the profit share – for the corporations has more than doubled since the war: “The contribution margin on March 24th, 2022 with a diesel price of 2.20 euros was a whole 61 cents, while on March 2, 2022 it was only slightly higher at 34 cents at a price of 1.80 euros than in October 2021 at 28 cents (diesel price 1.50 euros).”

The Federal Association of Consumer Centers (VZBV) warns the federal government to keep a close eye on the prices at the pump. You have to intervene if corporations want to enrich themselves in the crisis, says VZBV mobility expert Marion Jungbluth. According to Jungbluth, the market transparency office for fuels and the Federal Cartel Office are required.

According to the wishes of Federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck, the Federal Cartel Office has been keeping a particularly close eye on the mineral oil companies since the beginning of the war. But how that will work in practice remains uncertain. The five suppliers BP/Aral, ExxonMobil/Esso, ConocoPhilips/Jet, Shell and Total dominate the fuel business. So far, the Cartel Office has not been able to prove price fixing by the companies because, according to statements by his boss Andreas Mundt, there was no evidence of it at all – which is why his options are also limited.

Also read the commentary on the subject: Waste of taxpayers’ money – politicians must prevent corporations from enriching themselves with the tank discount

The corporations could continue to justify high prices with increased procurement costs. After all, demand is increasing, as Germany wants to make itself independent of Russian oil and that has already largely happened: in 2021, 28 million tons of oil came from Russia, the remaining 34 million tons came in roughly equal parts from the USA, Kazakhstan, Norway and Great Britain. According to Economics Minister Habeck, the share of Russian oil in German consumption has fallen to just twelve percent within a few weeks.

The remaining share of Russian oil is accounted for by the Schwedt refinery in Brandenburg, which is operated by the Russian oil company Rosneft. Germany now sees itself reasonably well prepared. Without Russian deliveries, no “oil crisis” is to be expected, Habeck recently said.

However, if the EU and the G7 get serious about a comprehensive oil embargo against Russia, prices at the petrol station could also continue to rise. Or not. The experts do not want to commit themselves here.

The petroleum trade association Fuels and Energy is very vague: It is “rather unlikely” that there will be no impact on prices at the gas stations. But the market and price development depend on many factors, such as the dollar exchange rate and decisions by the major producing countries such as the OPEC oil cartel.

The VZBV sees it similarly. “Nobody can reliably predict how prices will develop after an oil embargo decision,” says Marion Jungbluth: “The oil market has always been sensitive and prices have been volatile.”

Energy expert Klaus-Jürgen Gern from the Kiel Institute for the World Economy dares to make the forecast: “Drastic price increases would not be inevitable.” From his point of view, this applies at least to an embargo with a transitional period. Because the gradual move away from Russian oil has already been announced and has probably already been taken into account in the currently high prices.

So it remains to be noted: