From one crisis to another

A shortage of subsidized 80-octane gas has spread from Greater Cairo to other parts of the country, as the gasoline completely disappeared from gas stations in light of drivers’ rush to buy it due to its low price

Although the Egyptian Minister of Petroleum Eng. Sameh Fahmy denied on national television any plans to reduce the production of 80-octane and diesel or to increase the prices of fuel, taxi drivers as well as private car owners queued in front of gas stations across Cairo as the congested city suffered a shortage of 80-octane and diesel fuel; a crisis that reached its peak last two months.
The government hiked prices for other fuel grades last May between 32 and 57 percent. More and more taxi drivers as well as private car owners are resorting to 80-octane (LE 0.90 per liter) after the price hikes of gasoline 90 and 92, where the former increased from LE 1.30 to LE 1.75 per liter and the latter from LE 1.40 per liter to LE 1.85 per liter. As a result, the queues sometimes block the streets, leading to traffic jams, especially in streets where government buildings, like ministries, are located. Consequently, the Ministry started to sell quotas of 80-octane gasoline at gas stations located in main streets instead of side and narrow streets in order to avoid any traffic jam.
According to statistics issued by the Ministry, the consumption of 80-octane increased by 50 percent compared to last year. Moreover, the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC) announced earlier that the sales of 80-octane have increased by 17 percent, with a rate of 6.5 tons per day compared to year 2007.
The available amounts of 80-octane gasoline would not be reduced due to the measure taken by the Ministry, the First Undersecretary of the Ministry of Petroleum told daily newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm. “We will only change the stations selling the 80-octane gasoline, but the quantities will not be reduced and might be increased.”
From his side, Mohamed Abdel-Gawad Akil, Chairman of Assiut Oil Refinery, the sole refinery that produces 80-octane gasoline, said the crisis did not appear in Upper Egypt so far and the refinery increases production annually to meet demand.
On the other hand, some gas stations’ owners mix 80-octane gasoline with 90-octane gasoline to benefit from price differential, which caused the crisis.
Besides, the crisis pushed some to stock up gasoline.
In a related development, Interior Minister Habib El-Adly issued strict instructions to security bodies to square up to those who manipulate with 80-octane and 90-octane gasoline. Security campaigns have managed to abort attempts by some gas stations not to sell 15,000 liters of gasoline.  The campaigns also stopped the sale of 14,000 liters of adulterated gasoline.
“I have to stay in queues for two hours or more, and sometimes I do not even find fuel for my car,” said Hussein Soliman, a taxi driver. “It is really hard to find 80-octane now, and we can not afford to use gasoline 90,” he added.
Some drivers hopelessly took matters into their own hands and started mixing 80-octane with gasoline 90 as compromise.
The crisis of “80-octane petrol” disappearance goes on in Alexandria, Gharbia and Damietta. Cars queues stretched before gas stations in all cities and districts. In addition, some gas stations in Tanta, Mahalla and Kafr Al-Zayat witnessed many quarrels between owners of gas stations and vehicles. Some gas stations were closed for fear of clashes with drivers.
The government alleges that the deficit in Alexandria is attributed to the existence of three million summer visitors, but it could not justify why the same problem did not happen last summer or why did the same crisis take place in Gharbia, Damietta and Luxor and other governorates.
The diesel also escalated the crisis. Eng. Abdul-Aleem Taha, Executive Chairman of the EGPC attributed the crisis to the unjustified increase in the demand for diesel in the wake of false rumors that the government intends to raise its rate
“The stations’ quantities sufficient for a full day are withdrawn in six hours, which threatens the spread of the black market”, he said.

The EGPC, he added, had increased the quantities of diesel it pumps in the market by 10% and Cairo alone had received 1000 tons daily increase, asserting that the reserves are in their safe rates without shortages.
He pointed out that the daily consumption nationwide reaches 30 thousand tons. On the contrary, owner of a gas stations chain said the Corporation’s supplies had gradually went down for two months until reaching half.

By: Ahmed Morsy


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