Well, all good things must come to an end and for me that is the end of November when I retire from UKPIA after 20 years at the Association. One thing that marks our industry is constant change.
On joining Elf (remember them?) in 1989, we were coming to the end of a golden age for downstream oil, where margins were healthy and service station ownership for the 20,000 sites was a profitable business, largely based on fuel sales with shop and other income streams a minor contributor. Tanker drivers were some of the highest paid employees in the land, passing jobs from father to son as I recall. It was also a time when oil majors ruled the landscape from upstream through to the consumer and, as one marketing director of my acquaintance put it, "the grocers will never amount to anything in our business and our job is just to sell what the refinery produces!".
Fast forward to the present day, the downstream oil supply chain is much more fractured, with the withdrawal of most oil majors from the consumer end of the business (indeed from refining in the UK in some cases), the emergence of supermarkets and large dealer groups to dominate the service station landscape and the rise of the shop as the lead profit centre with car washes losing favour among the 8,000 remaining locations. Our use of technology has also advanced leaps and bounds in line with these changes and the increase in card payments.
One thing has never changed however, and that is the vital importance that this wonderful industry represents to our nation. Without the sector, consumer mobility would disappear. Through strikes, blockades, supply outages and even Buncefield, downstream oil has consistently and seamlessly delivered, keeping people and goods moving. For this reason, our politicians, unfortunately, often forget or overlook us. The calls to ban petrol and diesel vehicles by some date in the future are not evidence based.
The reality is that we will be needed well into the future and I have been proud to represent this industry and all it provides society.