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Editorial

February 15, 2018

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Safer fuel

Safer fuel

There was a time when Pakistan prided itself on being self-sufficient in gas. However, decades of overuse of the country’s natural gas reserves have left it facing a situation where gas must be imported in bulk. Pipelines from Iran and Central Asia have been in the works for almost two decades but none of them have broken ground. In two years, the gas shortage is expected to be almost 4 billion cubic feet of gas per day. This is equal to the current supplies. Half of the gas the country consumes will need to be imported. A decade after that, the shortages will hit 6.6bcfd. This is not a situation we are prepared for. Gas has remained a cheap fuel for a long time, making us conveniently forget that it is a finite resource. The grid has continue to be expanded as gas companies have added over 300,000 consumers per year without factoring in the cost to the exchequer or where the new supplies will come from. This demand is set to continue to rise, forcing us to whether such a future is sustainable at all.

In a similar manner, oil and petroleum consumption has also spiked. The biggest consumer of gas remains the power sector, followed by the fertilizer sector, which alone consumers 43 percent of gas supplies. The one change that is possible is to shift the reliance of the power sector from gas and other fossil fuels to greener alternatives. Not only would that help improve the environment, the change would also significantly reduce Pakistan’s imports of gas and other fossil fuels. Moreover, there is a need to look into alternate sources of residential fuel. While Ogra is satisfied with the import of LNG to bridge the demand-supply gap, Pakistan’s capacity for handling it remains under 1.3bcfd. Our dependence on imported fuels is a larger issue that the country does not seem ready to address. In a context where more vehicles are part of the reason petrol use increased by 16 percent, there are little incentives for the manufacturing or the purchase of hybrid vehicles. Similarly, the power sector remains heavily fuel reliant and will become even more dependent. With the growing trade deficit being a major cause of alarm, this is a system that is just not sustainable in the medium term. We need a serious policy discussion on how to reduce Pakistan’s reliance on gas and petroleum imports.

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