Sat, Sep 23, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Consumers' Foundation urges gas price cuts

REBUKE The recent global fall in the price of crude has not been reflected at the nation's pumps, and CPC and Formosa Petrochemical have come under fire as a result

By Jackie Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Retail gasoline prices should immediately be cut by NT$3 per liter to match the price reduction of international crude over the past year, the Consumers' Foundation (消基會) said yesterday.

The price of crude oil has declined by 15 percent after it climbed to a record-high US$77.23 per barrel on July 14, according to a statement issued by the foundation yesterday.

West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil dropped to US$66.85 per barrel on Sept. 8 before further dipping to US$60.82 on Sept. 20, little different from the US$60.26 level recorded in November, it added.

"The price of WTI crude slid by nearly US$4 per barrel from US$64.01 on Sept. 18 to US$60.82 on Sept. 20. But we didn't see Chinese Petroleum Corp (CPC, 中油) and Formosa Petrochemical Corp (台塑石化) show any indication that they would return prices at the pumps back to a level more suitable for market prices," the foundation said.

Claiming that their purchase costs have inflated due to crude price spikes, state-run CPC and the private Formosa Petrochemical hiked wholesale gasoline prices three times this year, lifting the rate by NT$4 per liter from last year.

The foundation called a press conference on Tuesday rebuking the two oil refiners' refusal to take the initiative in adjusting down pump rates when the price of international crude started to fall.

CPC then agreed to a reduction of NT$0.5 per liter that night, matched by smaller rival Formosa Petrochemical the following day.

The foundation reiterated that there is still room to reduce prices by NT$3 by comparing rates this month to those a year ago.

Crude is worth US$65.49 per barrel this month, down by US$0.48 from US$65.97 during the same period last year.

However, pump prices of 95-octane unleaded gasoline, for instance, remain high at NT$28.31 per liter this month, still NT$2.9 higher than the price of NT$25.41 last year.

The legislative caucus of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) yesterday morning demanded that CPC dramatically reduce gasoline prices within three days, or it would reject reviewing its budget proposal for next year.

KMT Lawmaker Hsu Shao-ping (徐少萍) said that CPC should shoulder responsibility for operational losses, which are caused by multiple factors, instead of passing on the costs to the public.

In response, both oil refiners yesterday reiterated that they have no plans to reduce retail gasoline prices as Taiwanese motorists still enjoy lower rates than their Asian counterparts.

"We must adopt a rational attitude and check whether domestic prices are in line with international rates," said Liao Tsang-long (廖滄龍), deputy director of industrial relations for CPC, during a phone interview.

Citing net prices that exclude taxes, he said Taiwan's pricing levels are on average lower than those in South Korea, Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong by more than NT$3 per liter.

The foundation urged the Ministry of Economic Affairs to exert its power and keep the market mechanisms intact.

It said one of the six principles the ministry set in February as a guideline for CPC to adjust gasoline prices was to "lower the rates at the time that international oil prices fall," but the state-run entity had failed to do so.

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