The Chamber of Petroleum Consumers (COPEC) says Ghana is likely to miss out on the January 2017 deadline for the reduction of sulphur content in diesel from 3,300 parts per million (ppm) to 50 ppm.
According to the Chamber, although assurances had been given by the standards committee, made up of the National Petroleum Authority (NPA), Ghana Standards Authority (GSA), as well as other relevant stakeholders, committing the country to 50 ppm in January, “we are likely to miss these assurances,” the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of COPEC, Mr Duncan Amoah, said.
According to him, although Ghanaians were paying high fees for fuel, low standard fuels which are harmful to public health and the environment were what were being made available to the consuming public.
“The harmful effect high sulphur content fuel have on the environment and public health is a matter of public concern and we expect the government to take it more seriously than any other issue that confronts us,” Mr Amoah told journalists after the meeting.
COPEC has thus called on the NPA and the GSA to give clear timelines to the promise to reduce the sulphur content as the Chamber and the public cannot accept dirty diesel beyond 2017.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the NPA, Mr Moses Asaga, however, told the Daily Graphic in a telephone interview that the implementation of the standards could only take effect in the first week of April 2017 after a stakeholder consultation, public awareness and a subsequent gazetting of standards were done from January to March 2017.
According to him, following a standards review meeting that took place in Accra in October 2016, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) organised a sub-regional consultative meeting in Kenya with Ghana and Nigeria.
The meeting, he said, culminated into the Abuja Consultative Forum held on December 1, 2016 with Ghana, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire and Benin agreeing that Ghana should play a lead role in the attainment of a low sulphur content fuel across the sub-region.
“The timeline at the meeting was that Ghana is to implement the programme by the first week in April 2017, followed by Nigeria in July 2017, while Cote d’Ivoire, Benin and other West African countries upgrade facilities at their oil refineries to enable them also to take off,” Mr Asaga noted.
“We will begin the stakeholder consultations and public education in January 2017 after which a paper will be presented to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which will then allow the NPA to gazette the reviewed standard for implementation to come into effect in April,” Mr Asaga hinted.
COPEC, he indicated, was similarly worried about the 17.5 per cent special petroleum levy, which Mr Amoah said was an added cost to the consumer.
He has thus called on the incoming government to consider a review of the tax as a priority in its 100 days achievable programmes.
Similarly, the council has also appealed for the introduction of a comprehensive transport fare policy for both the commuting public and transport operators.
The council observed that although fuel increases often saw upward adjustment in transport fares, the reverse was the situation when fuel prices went down, with no corresponding reduction in fares.
“The time has come for the government to put in a place a codified document that spells out the margin of increases in transport fares,” the council stated.
COPEC averred that the essence of deregulation was to ensure fair competition among the oil marketing companies (OMCs) and further allow the consuming public to have choices.
The policy, they said, had rather led to most OMCs benchmarking their prices to that of Ghana Oil Company (GOIL), a situation COPEC views as one meant to create a cartel.
“Most OMCs often wait on GOIL to introduce prices before they also price their products using 0.5 to 10 price difference and this is beginning to look like a semblance of a cartel,” the group lamented.
“Pricing variance of many OMCs is not much of a difference and we at COPEC are insisting that whatever they submitted to the NPA within the window of the price change is what they must charge and not benchmark GOIL,” Mr Amoah suggested.
“We expect the NPA to be tougher, firmer and crack the whip where necessary, and as a matter of national concern publish the prices as submitted by the OMC so the public can be well-informed instead of allowing few OMCs to be controlling the market,” Mr Amoah stressed.