The price of fuel continues to rise without the National Commission of Markets and Competition (CNMC) having been able to verify that the oil companies are taking advantage of the bonus launched by the Government at the beginning of April to cushion the rise in diesel and gasoline. For now, the agency has not detected this behavior that would try to fatten prices in a context in which they have a minimum state aid of 15 euro cents per liter and up to 20 in the case of SME service stations.

That was the insinuation launched by the economic vice president, Nadia Calviño, at the beginning of the month, when the Executive verified how the amounts of the pumps continued to increase and began to eat part of the bonus. In this scenario, the head of the Economy warned the energy companies that if they were raising prices by “absorbing” the aid, the Government would suppress their initiatives without extending them beyond June 30. “We have to analyze which are the most effective measures and if we see that some of them keep costs down because operators are raising prices and absorbing these aids, we will withdraw them,” she said.

Since the bonus came into operation, the CNMC has been studying the gross fuel margins even more closely than usual, to avoid this possible ‘absorption effect’. After carrying out that study in recent weeks, what he has observed is, rather, a containment of the margins and even a narrowing of them, according to sources from the agency consulted by this newspaper. The Commission even points out that the operators are trying to attract more sales to their facilities with prices that, within the maximums in which they move, intend to be competitive between the different fuel brands.

The Competition analysis suggests that the rise is reflecting the unstoppable rise in international prices. The barrel of Brent is trading at around 112 dollars and has not dropped below 100 since Easter. This situation was aggravated by a shortage of diesel after the first sanctions on Russia, where much of the diesel consumed in Europe is produced. Hence, the price of this fuel has been above that of gasoline for several weeks, according to the CNMC. The agency also attributes these price increases to the deterioration of the euro/dollar exchange rate, which makes oil prices and all its derivatives, which are referenced to the dollar, more expensive.

What Competition does expect are falls in diesel in international markets that should be transferred to prices in Spain. In fact, the last Bulletin of Petroleum Products of the EU indicated that the price of gasoline has reached a new maximum this week, reaching 1.89 euros per liter, once again exceeding that of diesel, which is at 1, 88 euros. In the first case, it already registers an increase of 10 cents since the start of the bonus; and in the second, it is almost at the same level.

With these data, the Government continues to study how to extend the fuel bonus from June 30, the day on which the current aid expires. Economy does not rule out adjusting the measure to limit it to social groups with lower income, in view of the fact that fuels will continue at high levels for much of 2022.