Energy costs prompt crisis talks

Energy costs prompt crisis talks

NEPC mulling measures to keep B30 diesel cap

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, emerging from Tuesday's cabinet meeting, takes to the podium to explain his concern about the Russia-Ukraine conflict as he ordered preparations be made to cope with the fallout from the crisis. Gen Prayut was speaking as oil prices have spiked in recent days. (Photos by Chanat Katanyu and Nutthawat Wicheanbut)
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, emerging from Tuesday's cabinet meeting, takes to the podium to explain his concern about the Russia-Ukraine conflict as he ordered preparations be made to cope with the fallout from the crisis. Gen Prayut was speaking as oil prices have spiked in recent days. (Photos by Chanat Katanyu and Nutthawat Wicheanbut)

The National Energy Policy Committee (NEPC) will on Wednesday discuss measures to deal with soaring energy prices, including efforts to maintain the cap on diesel prices at below 30 baht a litre.

Deputy Prime Minister and Energy Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow said on Tuesday that cabinet ministers discussed a range of issues including the fallout of the Russia-Ukraine conflict and surging global energy prices.

He said the NEPC will now consider the best course of action as global oil prices have surpassed US$120 (3,980 baht) per barrel, driven by rising demand from an economic recovery in many countries and the impact of the conflict in Eastern Europe.

The high prices have complicated the government's efforts to maintain the 30-baht cap, prompting the NEPC to convene the meeting, Mr Supattanapong said.

"The government is trying to do all it can to maintain the cap. Meetings are being held every day to assess the oil price situation. The prices are highly volatile, jumping 50% in a week. Saving energy is now a necessity.

"The prime minister has instructed all agencies to propose their plans to the cabinet. The public must also help as our country still relies on imported energy," Mr Supattanapong said.

"Oil prices have skyrocketed quickly," he said.

"We'll have to discuss measures to cap energy prices to avoid further impacting inflation," he added.

Mr Supattanapong said the Oil Fund is considered the main tool to cap diesel prices, but the government will have to consider how long the subsidy scheme can be shored up given the current situation.

"If global oil prices continue to surge, the fund could dry up and the government may have to consider other options, including seeking more loans to support the scheme," he said.

However the Oil Fund is expected to obtain a loan of 30 billion baht to support the subsidy scheme next month, he said.

The fund will seek and find alternative ways to boost its liquidity by asking to delay the payment of debts it owes to oil traders so that it will have more money to subsidise the diesel price, Mr Supattanapong added.

He said the energy and finance ministries will discuss whether to further cut the excise on diesel.

The NEPC will also discuss at Wednesday's meeting whether to extend stockpiling the country's oil reserves beyond 60 days to prepare for any future oil crisis, Mr Supattanapong added.

Speaking after Tuesday's cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha urged the public to cut back on energy consumption by trying to avoid using private cars, regularly cleaning air-conditioners, switching off lights when not in use, and working from home.

A source said Gen Prayut ordered the cabinet meeting held behind closed doors, to be only attended by ministers and heads of state agencies.

During the meeting, he looked tense because the problems presented by the agencies remained unresolved, prompting the PM to tell them to propose solutions at the next meeting.

The Energy Ministry appeared to face the most serious problems caused by soaring oil prices, while the Commerce Ministry reported that the conflict has had severe impacts on imports and exports, particularly high fees for goods shipped on maritime routes.

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