Published On : Fri, Oct 21st, 2016

“Why is there water in my petrol?” This, and other issues may force petrol pumps’ nationwide strikes after Diwali

petrol pump

Nagpur: Have you noticed that every petrol pump – in Nagpur, in the state or anywhere else in the country- has a ‘blackout’ in the evening from 7 p.m. onwards for 15 – 20 minutes? That is peak business time and customers are bound to enquire what the problem is. “Nothing at all; just wait it will be sorted out!” is the reply he gets from the trained staff or owner.

Well – it appears that despite this token action of showing protest ( yes, the blackout is deliberate and begun from 19th October all over India) the Petroleum Ministry and Companies are not in a mood to ‘sort out the problems’ and petrol pump associations nation wide may be forced to resort to first ‘No purchase’ for two days followed by restricted pump timings.

But they plan to ensure that customers will not be unduly affected and pumps wont go dry. Even the two day ‘no purchase’ protest that will be post Diwali will be with adequate stocks of petrol/ diesel. So pumps will be running even on the no purchase days. If even after this their demands are not met sympathetically they will start restricting business hours from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and may also keep pumps closed on all bank holidays.

What are their grievances?

They want commissions they get on petrol and diesel to be reviewed twice a year – on 1st January and 1st July.
There has been no valuation done on petrol pump properties with all the necessary infrastructure since 1997 and thus rentals are being paid by Petroleum companies on old and unrealistic valuations.

Owners are expected to bear the costs of building and maintaining clean toilets and dispensing air from their already meager commissions. Thus the salary of sanitation workers is forced on owners – since other staff normally does not take on this work.
At the press conference that Vidarbha dealers Assn and Nagpur dealers Assn hold from time to time it has been stated that since the last 2 – 3 years every petrol pump in the country is suffering losses due to non-co operation of Petroleum companies and Ministry. Petrol rates are changed suddenly and often many times leading pumps to buy dearer and sell cheaper.

Another reason why pumps in Maharashtra are suffering is due to the high tariff of power. With commercial rates of electricity mounting beyond Rs. 13 – 15 power bills are very high.

Where dealers are on salary basis, their salary is still fixed at Rs. 12,000 per month which is way below salaries of their own employees according to latest pay commission.

10% ethanol being compulsorily added to fuel in India

It made sense to dilute petroleum fuels with organic ethanol when crude was available at $ 120 some years ago. When it is now less than $ 50 a barrel, making petrol cheaper than ethanol why has the present government raised dilution with ethanol to 10%? Ask Petroleum dealers. (Petrol in effect costs govt. Rs. 23/ per liter while ethanol is Rs. 39/ per liter.)

Ethanol is not even mixed properly in the tankers and being moisture friendly attracts the water particles that adhere to tanker roofs often leading to high water content, along with ethanol. This loss is directly borne by petrol pump owners. And the effects also passed on to customers, because this mix is bad for your cars.

Why is ethanol bad for your car engines? ( From a U.S. web site)

Most people realize that all of us burn gasohol—a mixture of gasoline and alcohol—in our cars. Just about every gallon of gas pumped today contains as much as 10 percent domestically produced ethanol. Gummed-up fuel systems, damaged tanks and phase separation caused by stray moisture infiltrating fuel systems have plagued many consumers since this mixture debuted, and the problems will only get worse if government policy to increase the proportion of ethanol to gasoline is implemented. Don’t get me wrong: Gasoline diluted with ethanol is a perfectly acceptable motor fuel when it’s stored properly, dispensed promptly and burned in vehicles and power equipment designed to handle it. Which, unfortunately, it is not.

So why is ethanol being added to petrol?

In US, this mixing began happening because the second President Bush made a decision to offset some of America’s dependence on foreign oil with domestically produced alcohol, and the Corn Belt senators agreed. Ethanol plants have mushroomed, ramping up U.S. production from 1.77 billion gallons in 2001 to 10.75 billion gallons in 2009. (Ethanol is produced in USA from corn farming waste).

Our politicians were quick to see the advantage of copying this to bring down cost of costly imported fuel and also benefit sugarcane farmers who can produce ethanol.

( In USA, this practise of diverting some corn into making of ethanol made animal feed more expensive resulting in non veg food like pork and chicken becoming dearer. There was a public hue and cry in protest. And since petrol is almost ‘dirt cheap’ now, ethanol is not being added any more ‘officially.

Whereas in India ethanol is only a by product when sugar is made from sugarcane. It does NOT make sugar more expensive so it makes political sense to benefit farmers at the cost of Petroleum dealers – and car owners too.)

This mixture is made most unscientifically in India, without blenders being used to blend the two absolutely different kinds of hydrocarbons of different origin.

The automobile industry which designs and manufactures cars has not been advised to modify the design of car engines, specifically carburetors, for this mixture.

How often do we complain that our engine is not running smoothly because ‘engine me pani aa gaya?’ ( there is water in the engine). We then proceed to blame the petrol pumps roundly for adulterating petrol to increase their profit.

Little do we realize that apart from the petrol pumps may or may not be doing – IT IS THE GOVT ITSELF THAT IS OFFICIALLY ADULTERATING OUR PETROL TO THEIR ENDS?

—Sunita Mudaliar (Associate Editor)