Pridiyathorn warns over energy policy

Pridiyathorn warns over energy policy

MR Pridiyathorn Devakula, a former deputy prime minister, issued an open letter to Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin on Friday urging the government to revise its energy policy before it is too late.

In the petition, MR Pridiyathorn outlined the potential economic damage that could result from the energy policy implemented by the Srettha government.

When the Pheu Thai-led government took office, the Oil Fuel Fund had a debt of 48 billion baht, but by the end of January that had jumped to 84 billion baht.

This came as a result of the Energy Ministry's decision to keep the diesel price at 30 baht, reduce the price of benzine and gasohol by another 2.50 baht per litre and keep the price of LPG below the expected rate.

From left, Dr Narongchai Akrasanee, a former energy minister, MR Pridiyathorn Devakula, a former deputy prime minister, and Kurujit Nakornthap, a former energy permanent secretary, read their open letter to the press on Friday outlining the potential economic damage caused by the government's energy policy.

If this policy continues, the Oil Fuel Fund's debt will soon reach its limit of 110 billion baht, prompting the government to use taxpayers' money to settle the debt, he said.

MR Pridiyathorn suggested that since global oil prices had not reached a critical level and were expected to drop, the government should raise money to improve the fund's liquidity and reduce its debt.

He also discussed the policy of subsidising electricity bills, which resulted in the state-run Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) accumulating debts exceeding 137 billion baht by the end of December.

He said the government should implement measures to reduce this debt before being compelled to use taxpayers' money.

MR Pridiyathorn also criticised the ministry for not taking action to support the policy to use a higher-quality diesel that meets the Euro 5 environmental emission standard which took effect on Jan 1.

If the government fails to determine the appropriate price for Euro 5 diesel -- as requested by operators -- refineries that have invested in upgrading their facilities may not be so cooperative in future, he said.

MR Pridiyathorn also questioned how lower fuel costs would discourage people from switching to public transportation or electric cars, which can eliminate dust pollution. Lower prices would likely lead to increased fuel consumption and higher pollution levels, he said.

He said the ministry's new gas supply business model could result in lower gas costs for power producers but slightly higher costs for petrochemical producers.

Thailand spent almost four decades developing its petrochemical and related industries, and the new model would have a massive impact on both, he noted.

"We understand the government has a good intention of making people use inexpensive fuel, but the government must thoroughly consider the negative impact," he said.

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