For the seventh consecutive week, motorists don’t have to worry about whether fuel prices will be higher on Thursday. In fact, they may not have to think about the matter for a while because the new government has decided to maintain the current price levels ‘until further notice’. This was personally announced today by Tun Mahathir, our new Prime Minister, putting to rest the matter of fuel prices being revised every week.

He also added that in the event that global oil prices increase, the difference will be subsidised by the government to maintain the levels. The re-introduction of subsidies for fuel was among the promises made by Pakatan Harapan as part of the election manifesto and they are fulfilling that promise as well as the removal of the Goods & Services Tax (GST) from June 1, 2018.

Normally, on certain hospital equipment, a straight line showing on the screen will be bad news as the patient has died. But in this chart showing fuel prices where the last part is ‘flat-lined’, it is good news for motorists! This may be the level prices will be kept at for some time to come and if oil prices go up, the government will subsidise the extra cost to try to keep them at the same level.

So we will be discontinuing our weekly news on the change in fuel prices unless there are changes announced – which we hope will not be the case for some time to come. Nevertheless, motorists should also understand that while the government is helpful enough to subsidise prices at the pump, there are still limits and if the amount subsidised is excessive, it only means that less money will be available for other important activities also needed in developing the country.

The need to drive economically should also not be forgotten. Remember that petrol and diesel are fossil fuels, created by plants and dinosaurs that died millions of years ago and became oil. Since mankind began to extract oil from the earth and use it as fuel to power motor vehicles, aircraft, factory machinery and other elements of industrialisation, the amount of oil left inside the planet has been diminishing. It is not certain how much is left as new exploration sometimes reveals more to be extracted but the fact is that we will run out of fossil fuel at some time in the future.

Using fossil fuel has also resulted in carbon dioxide and other toxic gases accumulating in the atmosphere, with the blame largely on motor vehicle exhaust emissions. Technical solutions have been used to reduce the emissions, besides increasingly stringent regulations which force manufacturers to ensure solutions continue to be found if they want to use the internal combustion engine.

With hybrid powertrains, for example, reduced demand on the engine as extra power can be provided by a pollution-free electric motor means that less fuel is burnt and that can reduce emissions in a meaningful way.

In fact, Toyota, which pioneered hybrid vehicles, said that over the last decade, carbon emissions from its vehicles have gone down by 31%, helped by its wide range of hybrid models, the first of which was introduced in the late 1990s.

So do your descendants a favour and keep fuel consumption low if fuel prices are cheaper and not become economy-conscious only when they are high.

[Chips Yap]

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