By Watcharapong Thongrung
Energy Minister Pichai Naripthaphan said that at the end of September, the National Energy Policy Committee's next meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, would discuss the restructuring of fuel prices, especially the floating of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and natural gas (NGV) prices.
While some 200,000 vehicles are estimated to be eligible, the government will initially provide credit cards to the drivers of the approximately 50,000 taxis that use NGV, because this group is easy to identify and register. The cards will have a credit limit of Bt2,000, and will allow the government to get a clear indication of fuel usage for each type of public transportation, Pichai said.
A working committee will be appointed to oversee the credit-card plan's operations. It is expected that the cards will be issued by October, instead of December as originally planned. Additionally, the committee will discuss the price difference between 91 and 95 octane, and gasohol 95, which are currently selling for about the same amount. The committee wants motorists to switch to gasohol and will need to determine how much of a price raise for 91 octane will be required to achieve this.
At the moment, gasohol 95 and 91-octane fuel trade at the same price. Consequently, oil traders' total sales volume of gasohol 95 has dropped by 20 per cent, as drivers turn to 91-octane fuel.
"I will propose the committee find a way to create an appropriate price gap between the two fuel types," Pichai said.
Suthep Liumsirijarern, director-general of the Energy Policy and Planning Office, said the prices of LPG and NGV will be gradually increased every quarter to reduce the impact on consumers. The price adjustments of LPG and NGV will be implemented in the same direction, as has been done in the industrial sector previously. LPG price adjustments have been coordinated with prices quoted by oil refineries - currently Bt30 per kg.
"Currently, the LPG retail price is Bt18.13 per kilogram, while the NGV price is Bt8.5 per kilogram. The adjusted NGV prices will not exceed 50 per cent of the LPG price. For example, if the LPG price is raised to Bt30 per kilogram, that of NGV would not exceed Bt15 per kilogram," said Suthep.
The Oil Fund now faces the burden of subsidising NGV to the tune of Bt2 per kilogram, at a total cost of Bt400 million to Bt600 million per month, and for LPG costing Bt3 billion a month. According to a study undertaken by the National Energy Policy Committee, the restructuring of energy prices by gradually increasing LPG and NGV used in the transport sector would reduce low-income earners' energy costs. In addition, the burden on the Oil Fund would be reduced to hundreds of millions of baht.
According to Pichai, at the 29th meeting of Asean Energy Ministers held in Brunei this week, there was a discussion concerning the petrol reserves of each country.
It was decided that each should have reserves appropriate to its own needs. Oil prices are high and fluctuate often, making the purchasing of affordable petrol reserves difficult.