Compounding the problem: A blanket ban will not solve the CNG crisis

Govt needs to revisit decision to use CNG in transport, find a permanent solution.

Our Correspondent May 26, 2013
The argument in favour of the ban is that if a person is rich enough to afford an expensive car, they can pay for petrol and do not need cheap CNG. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: It’s never a good thing when a government is lethargic about development and won’t make the right decisions at the right time. It is worse when that laziness is coupled with a government that takes decisions without thinking them through. And when one hasty decision is rectified by another one, that’s when things hit rock bottom.

Often, especially when it comes to governments that are prone to mixing populism with financial and economic decisions, this can become a chain of ad hoc and hasty decisions that create a mess that in many cases becomes a Gordian knot.

In many ways, the CNG crisis is one such issue.

It started off with Musharraf encouraging the shift, en masse, from petrol to CNG for all kinds of transport. Anyone who was willing was allowed to make the conversion to compressed natural gas to run his car, bus or truck.

And everything seemed to be fine, people were happy, and everyone expected this to continue for a long time, since the country had reserves that would last hundreds of years. And then the government changed hands and Musharraf was forced into exile. Apparently he took all the gas with him, because the new government painted a completely contradictory picture of the country’s gas reserves.

Apparently, not only did we not have the gas to feed the CNG sector, we also did not have enough gas for the fertiliser sector or for captive power plants. In fact, we saw some of the worst gas load-shedding for domestic consumers as well, especially during the winter months.

The decision to allow free use of CNG as a transport fuel, the way it was pushed without thinking the consequences through, as well as the lack of strict regulation was wrong. It is still not clear what CNG is supposed to be. If it is meant to be a poor-man’s fuel, then it shouldn’t be allowed in private cars at all, since the bulk of Pakistani’s who make the minimum wage, or just above it, do not own cars.

If it was supposed to be for the rich – which seems highly unlikely - then it was senseless allow it in taxis or in bigger public transport, since the well-off rarely use any kind of public transport. And if it was for the poor, then why do we have Corollas, Civics and all kinds of expensive cars fitted with CNG? The poor do not own these cars. In fact the poor don’t even use taxis. They just use buses.

But if the decision to allow unfettered use of CNG was wrong, so was the decision to ban CNG in all kinds of vehicles that are bigger than 1,000 cc. There is a valid argument that if anyone can afford a 1,300 cc car, probably a City or a Swift or a Corolla Xl, among others, that person can also afford to buy petrol instead of depending on CNG. But the flip side of this argument is that just the engine capacity of the car is not the only valid criterion for judging the worth of a car – and as a result – the worth of the individual who owns the car.

There need to be other variables in this equation, for example, the age of the car should also be taken into account. What if a 1,300 cc car is 20 years old?

That’s not all. The people who have invested in the CNG industry by setting up pumps, or setting up CNG kit manufacturing units here – like Landi Renzo – have a valid complaint that they were planning on a longer recovery period.

So the incoming PML-N government needs to revisit the CNG issue. And find out if the CNG crisis was created because of vested interests that people in the PPP government had in LNG projects.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 27th, 2013.

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Arslan Aslam | 8 years ago | Reply

I have a 1300cc Honda City running on CNG...My father bought it for me with his hard earned money...Me and my father are not business men. Now my father is retired and I am working in private sector organization...My pay is Rs. 42000/- per month and I am married...I am hardly meeting my monthly CNG expenses....What would I do if CNG will not be available for 1300cc cars...I cannot afford petrol,,,not even if I have 1000cc car. Whats my fault....Why don't Government impose ban on public transport....I have seen Toyota Hiace equipped with two large CNG Cylinders and still they do not reduce rent....The quantity of CNG filled in two large cylinders of Toyota Hiace can otherwise be filled in three 1300cc cars.

So Government should impose CNG ban on public transport having engine capacity above 1000cc.

Really? | 8 years ago | Reply

"So the incoming PML-N government needs to revisit the CNG issue. And find out if the CNG crisis was created because of vested interests that people in the PPP government had in LNG projects." WHAT DOES LNG HAVE TO DO WITH THIS? HOW DOES THE LNG CONSPIRACY AGAINST CNG EVEN WORK? IS LNG GOING TO BE USED IN CARS? THINK!

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