Yesterday, a 47-year-old Maracas/Joseph resident who owns a Ford Focus sedan and commutes to Port-of-Spain to work, paid $200 to full up his 50-litre tank with premium gasoline, which normally lasts a week. As of today, it will cost him $287.50 to full up. That extra $350 a month in this resident’s fuel budget came as a result of Finance Minister Larry Howai yesterday saying that effective today, (October 2, 2012), the price of premium gasoline would be $5.75 a litre, a 44 per cent increase from the current price of $4 a litre. Against the backdrop of talk about Government promoting greater use of compressed natural gas (CNG) as an alternative transportation fuel, Howai said: “I am appropriately concerned with the need to avoid a rapid increase in the rate of inflation and to minimise the effect on the most disadvantaged in the society. “For that reason, in order to support the CNG conversion programme, I propose to initiate a gradual reduction in the fuel subsidies beginning with the price for premium gasoline. Effective October 2, 2012, the price of premium gasoline would be $5.75 per litre.”
He said measures to reduce the current levels of subsidy, which has already crossed $3 billion, will be progressively introduced during the 2013 fiscal year. Early on in his maiden budget speech, Howai said he proposes to address the inefficient allocation of resources and the associated budgetary implications of the fuel subsidies as T&T moves towards a balanced budget over the medium term. According to the National Petroleum Marketing Company Ltd (NP) Web site, there are currently seven CNG stations in operation at Barataria, Curepe, Mt Lambert, Sea Lots (Beetham Highway), Pt Fortin, and two in San Fernando. A new Unipet station at Brentwood, Chaguanas, is due to open soon and will be serving CNG. In his 60-page budget speech, Howai admitted that Government has been attempting to ramp up CNG use for some time, but the number of motorists making the transition from gasoline to CNG had been “less than satisfactory.”
He cited three reasons for this: inadequate refuelling experience; the need to fill up frequently; and, the substantial disincentive from the fuel subsidies. Howai said Government has developed a comprehensive business plan which includes the investment of $1.5 billion in converting gasoline vehicles to CNG as an alternative transportation fuel. Neil Francois, service manager at Automotive Components Ltd (ACL), which is the only company that the Ministry of Energy has granted a licence to install CNG kits in vehicles, yesterday said there are roughly 2,000 motorists currently using CNG. He said it costs close to $12,000 to install a CNG kit in almost all kinds of petrol vehicles. He said Automotive Components, a subsidiary of Neal and Massy Holdings, is currently working with its principal supplier in Italy to iron out the technical aspects of converting diesel engines to CNG use. Converting a vehicle to CNG, which is done at ACL’s O’Meara Road, Arima compound, takes one day. Tanks come in 20, 30, 70 and 100 litres. It takes an estimated $18 to full up a 70-litre tank, from which a motorist can get 160 kilometres.
“The new sequential kits are computerised. Any power loss between gasoline and CNG is negligible. On average, ACL outfits about five vehicles a month with CNG kits,” Francois said.