Cape Town - Don’t pack up that home office just yet – the government is recommending working from home as an energy saving measure if, as looks likely, the price of fuel gets to R24 per litre as a result of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
International oil prices have soared to record levels in recent weeks because of the conflict and concerns over Russian oil supplies. Russia is the third top producer of crude oil and the conflict is being reflected in increased oil prices.
Department of Mineral Resources and Energy deputy director-general Tseliso Maqubela said the government thought companies that can have their people work from home would be saving their workers from rocketing transport costs as South Africa would be adversely affected by the situation between Russia and Ukraine.
“We need to go back and ask whether everyone needs to be driving if they can afford to, and have the tools of trade, to work from home?”
Addressing Parliament’s portfolio committee on mineral resources and energy on possible alternatives and considerations in addressing increases in fuel prices, Maqubela said working from home needs to be considered as an option.
He also said the government was looking into the possibility of fuel rationing and at how many litres each motorist would be allowed per visit to the petrol station if rationing became a fact of life.
In a move that will please environmentalists, Maqubula said biofuels must now be enabled as a matter of urgency.
“It is the right thing to do, it enables jobs and reduces imports.”
He said the delay in moving to biofuels had been because South Africa is risk averse and the government didn’t want to subsidise biofuels. However, the government now thinks the time has come.
“In times like these we need to be in a position where we rely even less on imports and so this is an area that we think requires attention from the various government departments.”
He told the parliamentarians other options under consideration included how to provide relief to those involved in food production and in public transport.
This last option pleased Cape Amalgamated Taxi Association (Cata) spokesperson Mandla Hermanus, who said any form of relief from the government was welcome.
“I heard just now that Golden Arrow Buses are looking at increasing their prices and yet that is an institution that is getting millions from the government every month while we as the taxi industry get nothing.”
He said Cata did not increase their fares at the end of last year but the rising fuel prices meant that such an increase was now inevitable as maintaining current prices was unsustainable.
On Monday, Golden Arrow Buses (Gabs) increased fares by 8% across the board and on Wednesday general manager Derick Meyer warned that further increases may again become necessary as the year progresses.
“The diesel price has increased by 81% in the last 18 months and current projections predict that fuel prices will continue to soar. This has knock-on effects across our supply chain.”
At the same time, the Automobile Association (AA) has warned South Africans can expect record fuel price increases in April.
Commenting on mid-month fuel data released by the Central Energy Fund (CEF), AA spokesperson Layton Beard said the current data is projecting fuel prices to touch on R24 a litre for petrol and R23.60 for diesel.
“If realised at month end, these will be the biggest increases to fuel prices in South Africa’s history and will, undoubtedly, have major ramifications for all consumers and the economy in general.
“We must note, though, that this is the mid-month outlook, and oil prices are, for the moment, see-sawing significantly so there may yet be some relief before the official adjustment by the DMRE is made going into April,” Beard said.