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“What? Nah boy. We go dead boy,” said San Fernando/Port-of-Spain taxi driver Astil Hills after learning about the Government’s consideration to remove super gasoline from the fuel market.
While the Cabinet reviewed the proposal, it will make a decision by the end if the year after assessing the liberalisation of the fuel market. But it could be the second phasing out of cheaper fuels in the last three years. With the closure of the Pointe-a-Pierre Refinery in 2018, there was no more production of regular gasoline. The Government decided against importing the low octane fuel due to low demands. However, fishermen and some taxi drivers used it as a cheaper source. COVID-19 and poor road conditions have already caused taxi fares to increase in the past year. If taxi drivers have to fill their tanks with the costlier premium gasoline, they said it would hit them hard. Hills said at $5.75 per litre for premium gasoline, using premium gas would not be profitable for taxi drivers. Minister of Energy and Energy Industries Franklin Khan expects the impending liberalisation of the fuel market to result in monthly fluctuations in fuel prices at the pumps.
Hills believes that without government control, petroleum retailers will set high prices.“That will cause a serious kind of monopoly, and it is going to raise because remember, the government would not control the prices anymore. It will go sky high,” Hills said. He said if taxi fare raises again, people will respond angrily, so the government should not consider removing Super gasoline. It is a 54-kilometre trip between South Quay, Port-of-Spain and King’s Wharf, San Fernando. Some taxi drivers spend between $240 to $260 per day on Super gasoline. If they have to switch to Premium gasoline, which currently retails at 78 cents more, it can add just over $38 more to their daily bill. “Remember, super is a little cheaper than premium. So if they get rid of super, and we have to pay more for gas, other things will go up,” taxi driver Randy Noel said. He said it was only logical that if a taxi requires costlier gas, fares would raise. However, he believes this will have a chaotic and multiplier effect. Neil Denny, a Princes Town/San Fernando taxi driver, says he already uses premium gas in his Nissan Sunny. Denny said there was not much difference in how super and premium works, but it was about proper vehicle maintenance. He said premium gasoline is a cleaner gas and is better for fuel injectors. Regular gas was the preferred fuel for fishermen, given the two and four-stroke engines used on their boats. Switching to the costlier super gasoline in 2018 meant an increase in the cost of their operations, which trickled down to consumers paying more for fish. If the Government adopts the proposal to phase out super gasoline, fishermen say fish prices will increase again. Fish vendors at the San Fernando Fish Market want the Government to bring back regular gasoline. At King’s Wharf, San Fernando, fishermen Steve Mohammed questioned the proposal. He said the fishing industry still reels from the removal of regular gasoline. “I would say it was bluntly devastating. The prices went up, and it affected us greatly when they removed regular gas. But this here what I read in the papers today; it is with no regard. It is for more or less, people with high-end vehicles; who have the money and who can afford that. The cheapest gasoline is super, which everybody prefers to buy,” Mohammed said.
Ministry: Super remains on the market.
In a media release yesterday, the Ministry of Energy and Energy Industries assured that super gasoline would continue to remain available as a fuel option.The ministry acknowledged the public discussion caused by the Sunday Guardian’s interview with Khan.
It said based on proposals from stakeholders in the industry, technocrats within the ministry, it made a recommendation to the Government to consider the option of phasing out the use of super gasoline. “The current decision of the government is that it has no intention to phase out super gasoline with preference to premium gasoline on the local liquid fuels market. Therefore, super gasoline will continue to be available to the motoring public.”