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Fuel products: are we getting the right volume for the right price?

08:58 PM October 05, 2011

Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras may be right in saying that the government is helpless when it comes to regulating oil prices. (Inquirer, 9/10/11)  Indeed, what can a totally oil-dependent country like ours do to tame down the price of oil in the world market?  But there must certainly be other ways to skin a cat, as the saying goes. For example, are we really getting the right quantity of the oil we buy? My recent “experiment” tends to show otherwise.

The experiment was initially unintentional.  Given these days’ daily rains, which have stopped me from burning the fallen leaves in my backyard – I know there is a law against burning trash, but to hell with that stupid law! – I took an empty one-gallon water jug to buy a gallon of kerosene.

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Knowing that one gallon equals about four liters (3.78533 to be exact) and that kerosene costs about P45 (make it 50 for easier computation) per liter, I reckoned that P200-worth of kerosine would more or less fill my jug. Surprise of all surprises, my P200 filled my jug to just slightly more than half. I kept quiet, realizing it was impractical and useless to complain.

Well, I am not saying my “experiment” was perfect, but for my own peace of mind, I went to another station for a similar test. I would suggest to other customers to conduct their own experiment on several gas stations.

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Having said the above, I know for a fact that the oil companies, particularly the Big Three, do employ so-called SRs (sales representatives) to ensure, among others, that the pumps in their respective gas stations are being regularly calibrated.

But what happens after that and in between the calibration checks can be anybody’s wild guess. In this connection, can’t certain agencies of government double-check every now and then the accuracy of the volumes indicated by the gas stations’ meters?  Of course, chances are this may end up asking for the moon, since even in a related situation where there is already a specific law to comply with, the concerned government agency, the Department of Energy,  leaves very much to be desired.

I am referring to the sale of LPG. The law requires that every dealer of LPG in cylinders must maintain a weighing scale in their stores, so that every LPG consumer may weigh the LPG they buy, and ensure in the process that, in the case of an 11-kg cylinder, its weight is equal to 11 kg plus the tare weight of the empty cylinder, which the law requires to be conspicuously indicated on every cylinder in the market place. The thing is, very few LPG dealers maintain the required weighing scale; worse, even if they do, the scales are seldom, if at all, checked for accuracy by government; and ironically, this regulation is most often simply taken for granted by those for whose protection it is essentially intended.

In sum, everybody should bear in mind that our oil woes have two faces: the price we pay and the volume we get in return. For all we know, the latter might be uglier than the former.

—RUDY L. CORONEL,

[email protected]

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TAGS: Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, oil prices
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