TODAY -

Fuelling thoughts after fuel at Melbourne

Chingshang *

Fuel Barrels
Fuel Barrels



One of the most interesting continual events that I have been in toe with over the last few years is the trend of fuel pricing from a demand and supply side here in Melbourne. This is very interesting to me as I have been closely following the unfolding of fuel related events in my home turf at Manipur every day of the year with special reference to the historic economic blockades, so many of them. Of course I am an outsider and a spectator in this trade but definitely not without an affect from this very trade. So are all the people out there. Our lives at the present is so much depend on the consumption of fuel that it is viewed on par with oxygen and our love affair with everything movement and transportation that survives our economy is impossible without it. Petrol is one of the most vital staple commodities in all the societies these days that could promote other ancillary industries and businesses. Many wars have been fought and many more will, scales and types may vary, in the future. Then what am I doing here? Nothing.

The demand of petrol is always on all time high all over the world succumb to so many factors including increasing economic development, population, transportation activities. Hence supply and pricing have gained significant interests over the years. The supply side of fuel industry in Melbourne or for that matter Australia is largely dominated by four major players Shell, BP, Caltex and ExxonMobil. There are also smaller independents and other off- takers suppliers like Liberty, United Petroleum, and Scott Petroleum etc. who supplied fuel from surplus and discretionary imports. All the companies supply their products through their own networks of service stations. But these mechanisms have started changing in recent times.

Shell no longer participates directly in selling their products since its alliance with Coles Supermarket chains that gives at least 4 cents discounts per litre per docket from any purchases made in the store. Mobil is also in the process of selling all its retail assets to another convenience store chain 7-Eleven. This is definitely good for consumers. Consumers here enjoy, I feel, certainly a privilege in purchasing fuels in terms of variety, pricing, convenience and of course abundance of supply. From a normal service station one can enjoy the conveniences of at least three varieties or categories of petrol, diesel, LPG gas if your vehicle runs on that, grocery items, auto accessories and lubricants, drinks, tea and coffee, snacks, cooking gas bottle sales or swap, trailer hire, air facilities, toilet, car wash etc.

Bigger stations provide much more facilities including vacuum cleaning facilities and other stuffs like that. But one thing that interests me more is the convenience of purchasing three varieties of petrol from a service station and their subsequent pricings over the week. Here the old days of just filling up your vehicle with petrol are long gone. The choice of petrols is increasing along with the increasing sophistications of newer vehicles. Apart from the many alternative fuels available like LPG, Diesel, Bio-diesel and other Ethanol blends, most service stations provide a choice of three types of unleaded petrol with sizeable price differences.

This is great for the consumers as they can fill their vehicle according to their budget, model of the car, new or old or whatever is suitable for them. The differences in unleaded petrol pricing are largely done on the basis of their octane contents or rating or Research Octane Number (RON). Basically octane rating relates to the fuel's capability to resist pre-ignition which is an uncontrolled explosion of fuel in the cylinder, rather than the controlled burn, which gives more efficiency. The higher the number, more resistant is to pre-ignition. Normal unleaded petrol has 91 octane rating, while the premium unleaded has 95 octane rating and the highest grade unleaded petrol has a rating of 98.

This is considered to be the better fuel available at the market at present. It is known by different names in different companies. It is called V-Max in Shell's, Vortex 98 in Caltex's and Ultimate in BP's. Most of the high performance car owners prefer to use higher rated octane fuels. A minimum difference of 9 cents is visible between Normal unleaded petrol and Premium unleaded while it is about 13 cents between the Premium unleaded and the highest graded petrol of 98 octane rating. They are clearly being displayed in service stations in different pump handles and price boards.

For example in BP service stations Normal unleaded petrol has green handles, yellow for Premium fuels and dark blue for highest graded fuels-Ultimate. But sometimes motorists who fill in different service stations complain of confusion between the fuels. In Shell service stations Normal unleaded petrol has yellow coloured pump handles while the yellow coloured pump handles are Premium unleaded fuels in BP service stations and again it differs in Caltex's service stations. Coming to fuel pricing, it is really very interesting as it is the most competitive aspect of fuel retailing.

But one thing I know over the last three years is that it has never gone up above A$ 1.50 per litre. Currently the Normal unleaded petrol is selling in most of the stations at about A$ 1.28 A$ 1.30 per litre. In the Melbourne metropolitan area the location of service stations are literally ubiquitous, in fact each block has one or two or more stations. Big players like BP even introduced free Iphone apps for consumers to find the locations of their service stations on the go. One can see the competitiveness in retailing if one randomly checks between the stations. One can easily identify at least few cents difference which is a great for discerning motorists. There are days each week when the fuel prices are made visibly low and fuel prices keep changing every day. Sometimes it changes two or three times in a day. Of course the changes are in cents but still it makes a lot of sense when one fills up good number of litres.

Even the payments for purchasing fuel in all the service stations are very convenient. It is mainly done through cash or card payments. Card payments are the most convenient mode of transaction as it is done through online. Most of the service stations take all kinds of credit and debit cards including Amex and Diners. Just swipe your ATM card and it's done instantly. Apart from the normal credit and debit cards there are also many specialized cards for purchasing fuels. All the major fuel suppliers issued cards to its consumers for purchasing fuels and other items in their respective service stations. There are also cards like Fleet card, Motor pass card and Motor charge card that enable one to purchase fuel in participating service stations. In fact all these systems have been introduced and run to provide conveniences and trouble free transactions to motorists. In recent times even contactless payment mode have also introduced in some convenience store chains like 7-Eleven using MasterCard's PayPass and Visa's PayWave card system to reduce waiting times for customers by eliminating the need to sign a receipt or enter a PIN. Times are changing and its happening very fast, at least in so called Developed countries.

One may wonder why I am making myself so stupid by writing these very mundane everyday events at service stations in some foreign soil. But my intentions may vary from one normally assumes himself or herself as right. I am not interested in telling all the good and beautiful stuffs happening here but definitely in understanding why their system works, how and who are responsible for the system up and running 24/7, 365 days. The system works through a tightly knit network of service providers, financial institutions, and bit of intelligent technologies run by well trained personals. In simple words it should sound as cooperation, understanding, trust and loyalty between people and their institutions which I really doubt that we have or can we have. Here, there is and there was lots of hue and cry when the petrol prices hiked for few cents and of course their media and other communication channels are very vocal and loud which means that their citizens are kept informed and well aware. Their citizens are driving their vehicles with fuels for less than one and half dollar per litre. Their taxis run on LPG for less than 60 cents per litre. Their people can get their fuels whenever and wherever they want.

I feel it as a definition of freedom. For us what we witnessed during the Great Economic Blockade (GEB) malfunctioned by the so called some frontal organisations of so and so was the pathetic showcase of the fuel and fuel related state of the affairs dogging our state. Have anyone seen or heard such a long queue of people standing, rain or shine, in front of some nondescript petrol stations for few drops of fuel anywhere in the world or in history?. Have had anyone ready to pay at whatever price of fuels if available? Yes we have had all of them abundantly in our state and now it seems to run in the blood persistently. Economic blockades are the worst politics people played behind dirty democratic ideals to achieve or please some vested interests groups. It is the process of killing oneself knowingly slow motion hypnotised by a true sense of false agenda created by some or more demagogues.

Unfortunately we have many and many of them. Hold on, wait a minute, the big question now is had we learn or ready to learn a lesson or few from the tragedies we face so far and the looming tragedies that are on the way. We have a government, directionless, who doesn't know how to act and govern until its citizens sit and protest, do bundhs and all that blockades and stuff for all myriad reasons and we have citizens who are always under the impression that only bundhs and blockades could bring notice to the government. In either way there is no thinking for advancement. Ask anyone in the state, big or small, their understanding of what's happening in America, Russia , Japan, China and for that matter all the continents, you'll be surprised.

In terms of information and trends consume by all the citizens of the world, manipuris are not an exception, there is hardly any differences one can differentiate between people in this world closely networked by Facebook, You tube, Twitter, Skype, Feeds, and all other networking paraphernalia. But in terms of differences in physical infrastructure development and social security enjoyed by its citizens between the Developed and Developing countries are world apart. Then what we are supposed to do? We don't have to do so many things because it is not possible to do so many things at a time. We need to do some prioritised things that can provide scope and broaden our perspectives for development. Make the two highways, Jiribam Imphal NH53 and Dimapur Imphal NH39 all season sealed to Moreh world class and all the state highways linking the district headquarters 100% sealed and doubled lane for 24 hrs movement. This is a very least expectation we can make it fulfilled in a very short span of time.

See the changes it could bring to our economy. Our mothers and womenfolk in general, probably, may have one of the longest traditions of marketing, business, buying and selling skills in the world as we witnessed it since time immemorial. It's high time to let them play in the world stage. Of course you are right, there are so many problems and other related things to be tackled and put into place, electricity, agriculture, environment, information technology, engineering, education, and insurgency and so on. But then we have to start somewhere at certain point of time and it's not late yet. It's all about first things first served.

Why are we losing confidence and pointing fingers at each other in this small landlocked state in spite of knowing we don't have many choice to make? But are we really weak to participate in the race for development provided we have scope and perspectives? I don't think so. All the international border towns in the world, if not 100%, have developed and live a very good standard of living. Believe or not, Google yourself. Why it is not possible for Manipur? I am not looking for answer. Everyone knows it. Only thing is that we seem to stray in thinking what we really want as a state, as a nation. I know I am also sounds like yet another stupid intellectual who just know only how to talk and write and nothing else. But I still have faith in people and in inculcating and propagating ideas as the cornerstone for any development perspectives in any state machinery at any given point of time.


* Chingshang, a Graduate student at University of Melbourne, contributes regularly to e-pao.net. The writer can be contacted at throvin[AT]gmail[DOT]com.
This article was posted on February 05, 2012.



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