You are here
Examining a vehicular fuel policy
Environmental concerns, energy content, cost and availability are factors that influence the choice of fuels that are used in vehicles. Some of these include kerosene, gasoline, diesel, LPG, CNG, methanol and bio fuels like ethanol and palm oils. Of course electricity (from both the grid and solar energy), compressed air and fuel cells can be used to power vehicles but are not considered in these discussions.
The above-mentioned fuels are or can be produced here in Trinidad and Tobago and thus given the cost of the fuel subsidy, air pollution and the numbers of vehicles, it would make sense to determine the way forward for the medium and longer term. In arriving at any policy decision, a number of additional factors need to be taken into account; like the cost of new infrastructure, the “miles per gallon” standard and safety issues.
In the developed world, new standards on the “miles per gallon” the engine will give has been agreed to and the effect of this will be effectively a cost reduction to the consumer as more miles can be travelled between visits to the gas station. This is clearly a long-term measure for them. How it might affect is would depend on our used-car importation policy for we would be receiving the less fuel-efficient vehicles.
We do produce methanol, which can be mixed with gasoline (eg M85,) but this requires changes to the hoses etc, special fuel-storage tanks in the gas stations and heightened safety concerns which, at present, cannot justify its use as a vehicular fuel.
Ethanol, which can be produced from sugar cane, an industry that for all intents and purposes no longer exists, is also not feasible. It is worth noting that Brazil, a large producer of sugar cane, persisted with its ethanol programme, which is now paying dividends.
LPG can be and has been used in vehicles and is easily available. For some strange reason it has not been seriously considered as a vehicular fuel here. One may indicate that there are safety concerns for explosions on impact due to accidents or environmental damage due to leakage. The same also applies to CNG.
CNG was introduced in the past, with 14 gas stations being built. Many have become non-functional and therefore one presumes that an analysis was done to determine what made that attempt, at best, minimally successful. Further, the cost for developing the transmission and filling infrastructure is quite a significant investment and therefore a clear policy needs to be articulated and effected, if we are to avoid the mistakes of the past.
One would think that a graduated programme, targeting diesel-engine based fleets, would be the most efficient strategy. The PTSC and large private construction and transportation firms would be prime candidates, for diesel engines generally are the worst polluters, and further, the largest number of vehicles would benefit from the smallest infrastructure investments.
The buses in New Delhi were converted to CNG a few years ago, with remarkable improvements in air quality, to the tremendous relief and benefits of both citizens and tourists. The heavily polluted residents of the East-West Corridor would welcome a similar initiative here.
Biofuels are technically feasible, but we do not produce them in any significant quantities. Maybe a revived coconut industry can contribute to their production. However, society needs to be mindful of potential food shortages or increased cost whenever agricultural products are used to provide energy needs. In fact, such programmes are already negatively affecting the cost of basic food stuff on the global stage.
There can be no doubt that any responsible government would want to reduce fuel subsidy, quoted as being in the region of some $4 billion. It has to be done in a graduated manner, as indicated by the Minister of Finance, and over a suitable time period to allow for adjustments to the new costs that citizens will face.
Also, the portion of the subsidy attributable to inefficiencies at Petrotrin and NP should not be passed on to the consumers. Further, a comprehensive transportation policy for the various segments of the society should be put in place together with vehicular performance standards, for this would have an impact on the fuel policy. A long-term plan is needed if we are to conserve our environment and afford vehicular fuel.
User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff. Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.
Please help us keep out site clean from inappropriate comments by using the flag option.
Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments. Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.