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Oil price rises threaten winter crisis

A Migrol crude oil refinery on the Rhine. Keystone / Caro-Fotoagentur / Andreas Bastian

Swiss consumers could face a cold winter following a dramatic rise in heating oil prices. Analysts say storage tanks are at a very low level, with many homeowners unsure whether they can afford to stock up in time for winter.

The surge in crude oil prices to a 10-year high means consumers can expect to pay almost twice as much for their heating this year as they did in 1999.

Petrol prices have also risen sharply, but unlike France there is no petrol shortage in Switzerland. Swiss petrol stations are reporting a big influx of French motorists desperate for fuel.

But there is no guarantee that homeowners will be able to refill their storage tanks, even if they can afford to. Pascal Hollenstein, business correspondent for the “SonntagsZeitung” newspaper, says energy suppliers could struggle to meet a sudden demand for oil.

“Storage tanks in private homes are only half full, as owners have been waiting for prices to fall before ordering,” Hollenstein told swissinfo.

“If temperatures drop suddenly and dramatically, deliveries cannot be guaranteed, simply because suppliers do not have the logistic capacity to deliver so much in such a short period,” he said.

Energy expert, Walter Knupp, is even more pessimistic. “A cold snap in October could spell chaos, especially if the shipping capacity on the River Rhine is not adequate to deal with demand,” he told “Blick” newspaper.

Analysts are also predicting a damaging knock-on effect for the Swiss economy. They say that inflation, which fell further in August, is likely to jump in September, reflecting the higher energy prices.

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR