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02 June 2009

RON 95 Starting September 2009, etc.

RON 95 will be making its nationwide debut come September 2009, and RON 92 will no longer be offered for sale. In a report dated 13th May, 2009, the New Straits Times reported that come September 2009, RON 95 will be sold at RM1.75 per litre and RON 97 will be sold at RM2.00 per litre. RON 97 will become a premium product, similar to Shell's V-Power, which currently retails at RM2.05 per litre. (Ref: The New Straits Times, 13th May 2009. Cheaper RON 95 petrol from Sept 1) What Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob failed to mention was whether V-Power would be going up in price, in response to the changing prices of RON 95 and RON 97. A premium product, after all, would need to remain slightly above the market's normal offerings.

In the same report, it was stated that RON 95 is presently being sold at two Petronas stations in Putrajaya. This was probably a pilot test which has proven successful. The report also stated that petrol stations were free to set their own prices for RON 97 petrol as the government would not impose a ceiling. One cannot help to wonder what the price of RON 97 would be in remote areas such as Cameron Highlands.

Of note, too, is the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob's pronouncement that food prices will not increase. It is not true that players in the food industry use diesel engine vehicles. Granted, most factory owners and many transportation companies use diesel-powered vehicles. But this statement does not necessarily hold true for those ultimately selling foods at restaurants and food stalls. It is also not true that people buy food exclusively from hypermarkets, off the shelves. Instead, they are likely to be buying food from those who run eateries and hawker stalls -- people who will certainly be affected by the rise in petrol price, and, whether affected by it or not, are likely to take the chance to raise food prices.

Malaysians will be heartened to know that the Government has allocated a whopping RM812 million for various projects designed to alleviate the expected price rise, including "distribution of essential goods such as rice, cooking oil, sugar, flour and liquified petroleum gas (LPG)". (Ref: The Star, 12th May 2009. Petrol Price: RON 97 to cost 20 sen more.)

On the Euro2M standards, Paul Tan, automotive blogger put it very simply when he wrote,
... it takes 33 Euro II cars to equal the pollution produced by one 1970 car...

(Ref: PaulTan.org, 25th Feb. 2007. Analyzing Fuel Analyzing fuel quality in Malaysia - 3 out of 6 already Euro II compliant for petrol!)

The above article is worth reading, even though it has been more than 2 years since it was posted. Under Euro II standards, RON 97 would contain maximum 5% benzene and maximum 500 ppm sulphur. Under Euro IV standards, RON 97 would contain maximum 1% benzene and maximum 50 ppm sulphur.

According to a Pakistani report, the world seems to be moving toward Euro II and Euro IV standards in response to air pollution. Euro II standards exist not only for fuels, but also for vehicles:
Under Euro-II emission standards, a petrol driven vehicle could only emit 2.2 gram/kilometre (g/km) carbon monoxide and 0.5 g/km hydrocarbons + nitrogen oxides (HC+NOx). However, for diesel driven automobiles, the standard would be 1 g/km carbon monoxide and 0.9 g/km hydrocarbons + nitrogen oxides (HC+NOx).

(Ref: The News International (Pakistan), 11th May 2009. System for petrol driven vehicles to be enforced from July.)

The Pakistani government has decided to implement a system beginning July 2009, to ensure that all petrol powered vehicles comply to Euro II standards. Diesel powered vehicles need to start complying from July 2012.

Another application of petrol-based fuels, power generators, has also witnessed evolution. A report on Global Sources states that manufacturers of power generators are "improving fuel efficiency and complying with international emission standards such as Euro II, EEC, EPA and CARB." (Ref: Global Sources, 29th May 2009. Portable power generators: Price cuts, product upgrades keep line afloat)

If interested, you can read about these other standards for measuring emissions here:
(a) EPA - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency;
(b) CARB - Californian Air Resources Board (and Wikipedia)
(c) EEC - European Economic Community, now EU (European Union)

In March, OPEC stated in a press release that it supported efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions, singling out carbon capture and storage (CCS) as an emerging technology which could significantly reduce greenhouse emissions. (Ref: Opec News, 19th March 2009. OPEC Seminar promotes sustainable energy future) The press statement was made pursuant to a seminar. Notable among the other participants at the seminar in March 2009, was this statement by Yvo de Boer, head of the UN climate change secretariat: "Fighting climate change cannot realistically mean fighting oil. Fighting climate change means fighting emissions." (Ref: Financial Times Energy Source, 20th March 2009. Opec's interest in emissions reduction.)

Recent news, however, indicates that OPEC may have other plans for the immediate future. Forbes reported last Wednesday that OPEC members believe crude oil will fetch USD75 to USD80 per barrel. (Ref: Forbes, 27th May 2009. OPEC gets overexcited.) Crude oil prices have been climbing, settling at USD63.45 per barrel on Wednesday, a fact which Forbes attributed to market sentiments more than actual rise in demand. On 1st June 2009, Bloomberg reported that OPEC crude oil production increased by 1.5% last month, in May. All OPEC members, with the exception of Iraq, pumped in excess of their quota. (Ref: Bloomberg, 1st June 2009. OPEC’s Oil Output Rose 1.5% in May, Survey Indicates )

Pakistani newspaper DAWN, in its Sunday commentary, had this to say:
The question remained how can the oil price, along with equities, defy reality and show a measure of exuberance in the face of such a depressing economic reality? One answer is speculators returning to markets.

Opec has been raising voice as in recent days there has been a substantial rise in the open interest positions (both long and short) of the group of non-reporting players, or small-scale speculators, at NYMEX.

These small-scale speculators now hold the largest net long positions. And markets seem to be holding on to this lifeline.


(Source: DAWN.COM, 31st May 2009. Deferring drastic measures, a prudent Opec decision)

Perhaps, speculators who had parked their crude oil in supertankers, are now trying to cash in on the contango they had earlier created. The Guardian reported that Swiss oil trading company, Vitol, would begin to slowly release its stockpile of crude oil in the world's markets. Naturally, in releasing stockpiled crude oil, it has to be slow so that supply does not peak all at once, sending prices down. (Ref: The Guardian, 26th May 2009. Oil storage play unwound as contango narrows -- Vitol) Part of that crude oil, including "1.0 million barrels each of Yoho and Kissanje (West African) crudes", were sold to India Oil Corp (IOC) -- the largest state owned refinery company in India. (Ref: Reuters India, 1st June 2009. Asia Crude-IOC seeks more August crude) According to an article by The Telegraph (UK),

In the 1990s, Vitol paid $1 million to Arkan, the Serbian war criminal, to act as a “fixer” on a deal in Slobodan Milosevic’s Serbia that had collapsed. In 2007, the company was fined over the oil-for-food scandal. Vitol pleaded guilty to larceny in a New York court and paid $13million to the Iraqi people in restitution.
(Source: The Telegraph (UK), 11th May 2009.
Alan Duncan claimed thousands for gardening: MPs' expenses)

Back to petrol and crude oil, I find myself agreeing with the views in this following article (the excerpt is from the comments to the article):
To support that you have the massive increase in oil prices over the past few weeks. Oil was trading in the $50-$55/barrel range a few weeks ago. Since then, likely these same crooks have moved it over $66/barrel. Granted a minor part of the move of warranted by the declining dollar as oil does historically increase as the dollar declines because oil is priced in dollars worldwide. However, oil supplies in the US are at record 15 year highs, something like 35-40 million barrels in Cushing, OK. The TARP banks purchased massive quantities of oil in contango back in Jan & Feb when oil was in the $35 range (estimated to be over 100 million barrels) and have it stored at sea in tankers. Note this is about 3x the level of already record high inventory levels at Cushing. It has been shown that OPEC producers are cheating on their reduced quotas and thus putting even more supply on the market as the price has risen. International Energy Agency has been continually reducing worldwide demand usage forecasts for quite awhile now. US refineries are running at very low capacities, something like 65-70% because there is simply way less demand for oil right now in the US. But apparently the laws of supply and demand no longer apply because excess supply should result in price declines. The exact opposite is happening. The only way that can happen is price manipulation, such as is apparently happening right now. Interesting how just a short time ago Goldman was forecasting that oil would go to $25/barrel. But once they were one of the parties acquiring the 100+ million barrels of contango oil stored offshore in tankers, now they have changed their tune and are forecasting much higher oil prices and very likely are one of the key manipulators driving up oil prices now.

(Source: Seeking Alpha, 30th May 2009. Sell in May? Not this time.) (Found via Hedged.biz.)

How true is it? Only time will reveal the truth.

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