The oil crisis

Today we are faced with a very serious oil crisis. It will blow up out of all proportion if suitable steps are not taken. A tragic dark cloud looms large (is worrying and frightening) over the economic horizon of the country that will send black rain of backwardness and disappointment to the already hopeless population, mostly living in wretched poverty and almost utter (complete) degradation (dishonor).

Oil and gas are used by us to satisfy 70 percent of our energy (power) needs. China and India use coal for 70 percent of their energy needs. It is very sad to note that we use coal to generate (produce) only one percent of our energy requirements. And this when we have one of the largest coal reserves in the world! By the year 2010, the prices of oil on the international market are expected to be around 150 dollars a barrel, up by about 200 percent or more. Pakistan’s entire export earnings of billions will be spent on its oil imports bill. During the last five years, the oil prices inside the country have registered an increase of about 600 percent. The transportation system had to use the CNG (compressed natural gas), much cheaper though getting more costly with each passing year. Oil is in short supply as its consumption in the US, Japan, China, India, Western Europe and other parts of the world is increasing fast. The Arab countries, Russia, Britain, etc. raise the oil prices when the weather is too cold or there are disruptions in supply. Countries like ours, which produce very little oil and have to import most that they need, have to pay higher prices.

The taxes on oil and expenses on refineries further raise the price of oil.

Some immediate steps need, to be taken to reduce expenditure on oil imports and to boost production. Firstly, oil exploration all over the country, especially in the areas producing gas, should be stepped up. Off-shore drilling should be diversified all along the seacoast. The experience of other oil-producing countries can be made use of in consultation with foreign experts. We possess 27 million barrels of oil reserves out of which only 3 percent have been used. Of 287 billion cubic feet of gas, 15 percent has been used.

Secondly, alternative sources of energy should be made use of extensively. Following the Brazilian example, we can mix ethanol (alcohol) with petroleum. Charcoal can also be used in place of petrol. Atomic energy can be used in some form in automobiles, locomotives, planes and ships. It is already in use in ship engines and for electricity production. Coal can be used extensively for electricity production. Already, we are busy with developing the Thar coal power projects with Chinese cooperation. The possibility of producing energy with wind power can also be experimented with. There is also talk about the use of solar energy through reflectors and heat absorption devices.

Attia Saleem

IIUI, Islamabad

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