Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Rubbish gasoline

Several years ago in Great Britain, hauliers, farmers and truck drivers picketed British refineries to protest against increases in fuel tax. The knock-on effects were startling and almost immediate. Huge queues developed at gas stations as panic buying spread, prices rose dramatically, and garages quickly ran out of stocks. Within very few days the government 'caved in' because the country was grinding to a halt. Reliable delivery of gasoline to consumers, is a very very sensitive subject.

The Ukrainian Cabinet has now signed a memorandum of partnership with the refinery owners, many of whom are Russian.

Imports, particularly of higher grades of fuel will be shut out, and Ukrainian refinery owners will get tax privileges and other perks, ostensibly to enable them to upgrade their plants. Rail transport tariffs will also be reduced. In exchange for this, the refinery owners have promised they will not act as a cartel and rig the market, and will produce more ecologically clean fuel.

Ukrainian authorities hope prices will now stabilize, but no price parameters have been indicated in the memorandum.

Things look different at ground level, however. Recent checks by regional authorities in Ukraine reveal that over 71% of Ukrainian garages are selling sub-standard fuel. It is something that Ukrainian drivers have to continuously put up with. The State consumer standards watchdog, having tested 20 million litres of fuel at retail outlets totally removed 2.65 million litres from sale. The main reasons given were octane ratings lower than those specified, and the inclusion of benzol - not good for modern engines. Many gas stations were also selling short measures, and could not produce quality certificates.

These are matters the government should be addressing first, but as usual the consumer gets 'the dirty end of the stick'. If you can get away with selling 'crap' to the market, why change?

No comments: