Engr Tahir Basharat Cheema The Arab uprising, especially Libyan conundrum, has led to the prices of Brent crude crossing the $118 barrel mark. The economic pundits are of the view that the world is once again heading for a peak of $147 per barrel, as it was in 2007-08. Since everyone in the country is affected, solutions have to be considered at the national level. Also, we must understand that it does not pertain to the present Middle East crisis, if the CEO of Frances AREVA Anne Lauvergeon, a French businesswoman, is to be believed. She said that the cheap price for oil and gas is over for the future. China has formulated an integrated energy plan that, in addition to other steps, looks forward to laying out an extremely tough five-year conservation plan in the next two weeks. This plan basically translates into limiting and rationing the energy use. All this, when seen in the Pakistani context, where conservation or saving or load cuts is frowned upon, will be a great help. The European Union, too, has proposed innovative measures that require member governments to improve energy efficiency of the public buildings, and make transportation and power grids more energy efficient. These measures could reduce the blocs annual fuel bill by as much as 320 billion. Looking individually at various countries, Spain has announced a series of energy saving measures, including a lower speed limit from present 120 km/h to 110 km/h, and cuts to train ticket prices. The goal is to limit the consumption of oil and gas to reduce the energy bill. Among comparative economies, India has increased spending on the state-owned railways by 39 percent to a record Rs576.30 billion ($12.7 billion). Such rise is politically significant and is sure to wean off commuters and haulage requirements away from the highways. Additionally, the Indians have legislated stringent conservation and energy efficiency laws, and seem to be enjoying the ensuing dividends now. The Pakistanis, on the other hand, are just fighting among themselves and forcing the government not to increase oil prices. Earlier on, it was extremely disturbing to see the public agitating against the 10-point conservation agenda propagated by PEPCO in 2009 and early 2010. It was not surprising, that both the five-day week and the early closure of shops were shunned the moment power supplies caught up with the demand. As Pakistan relies heavily on oil to meet its energy needs and which quenches a total of 32.1 percent (20.2 million TOES) of all the national demand, the increase in the oil bill - estimated to cross the earlier figure of $12.0 billion in 2010-11 - can be debilitating. Also, it is a fact that the GDP per unit of energy use, in Pakistan, is more than double of the worlds average, and five times more than Japan and the UK. Because this price hike is debilitating and, in all probability, will not abate soon and would have a great inflationary effect on the economy, there is an immediate need to follow in the footsteps of China, Europe and India. Especially, when unlike others we have no worthwhile strategic oil reserves to tap. Another issue that merits attention is the reverse flow of investments from the oil dependent developing economies to the developed world. According to a news item, the outflow from Pakistan in the current week was $7.25 million. This fact alone requires the Government of Pakistan to start acting fast. Having said that, Pakistan must immediately reduce the current level of oil usage, and in extension oil imports, especially when 45 percent of the power generation is oil-based and its use at the present level would lead to an increase in tariffs. We should, thus, implement the 10-point power conservation agenda - already propagated by PEPCO - in a serious and concerted manner. The agenda consists of restricting shops and plazas to shut business by 8pm; requiring agricultural tubewells not to draw water during evening peak hours; lighting of only alternate streetlight points; disconnection of the billboards from the national grid; government offices to reduce their electricity consumption by 25 percent and avoid using air conditions before 11am; curtail banquet halls to just three hours in the evening or night; and shun ornamental and decorative lighting, neon signs, etc. Furthermore, two other measures were to be adopted viz. daylight saving time and the five-day week for governmental offices. The above steps would surely result in reducing our dependency on oil for power generation, transportation costs, and in extension oil usage. Besides this, we need to immediately invest on railways and bring down the speed limits for vehicular traffic to 55 miles per hour or a maximum of 90 km/h; the speed that results in the best mileage from engines. Moreover, gas usage has to be reduced and the gains passed on to the power sector to minimise dependence on oil. This can be done through the use of baffles in the fire tubes of the existing geysers; replacement and repairs of thermostats; full replacement of burner tips with standard equipment; implementation of rules barring standby generators to draw on residential gas; captive power to adhere to the requirement of combined cycle or co-generation systems; and reduced UFG and the improvement in the transmission and distribution systems. At the same time, no expansion in the pipelines should be allowed (gas infrastructure development programmes) for the moment. In other words, the public has to be weaned off from natural gas to LPG, and also made to use only standard appliances. All these steps can help initiate the National Gas Saving Programme, which would also mitigate the present shortage of 1.0bcf being faced and then arrange for the fuel requirement of the power sector. To buffet the power and gas saving measures, the Ministry of Science and Technology through ENERCON may take up the National Engine Tuning Programme. The Ministry of Industries, the Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce & Industry (FPCCI), the CCI, and the provincial industries departments will be required to join in the national campaign. In addition, a separate National Tractors Repairs and Tuning Programme would be implemented through the provincial agricultural departments and the manufacturers to reduce the existing usage of up to Rs85 billion worth of diesel oil. The Government of Pakistan may pitch in with the part of the cost of this programme. It is assumed that if these programmes are seriously implemented, they would result in saving nearly 7.5 to 10 percent of the total fuel/oil demands for vehicular units. As 47 percent of the total oil imports (TOE 9.3 million) serve the transport sector, the savings can be up to 5 percent of the national energy demand. And in case all of above measures are implemented, then the savings can equal a stupendous $600 million. Saving in the oil usage for power generation would be in addition to this figure, which may triple itself to $1.8 billion over a financial year. If the speed limits are lowered and the Pakistan Railways somehow gets precedence in the budget allocation, then the magical figure of $2.0 billion is also achievable. As the amount is nearly 15 to 18 percent of the total oil bill, the increase in prices to this level can perhaps be smothered. And, in this process, the pressure to increase consumer end prices will also end. n The writer is the President of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Pakistan Email: cheema_tahir@yahoo.com.