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Since the deregulation of the local oil industry 23 years ago with the implementation of  Republic Act 8479, or the  “Downstream Oil Industry Deregulation Act of 1998”, Filipinos have been struggling to keep pace with the fluctuating prices of fuel.

Prior to the deregulation, the government had the Oil Price Stabilization Fund which absorbed changes in the pricing of oil in the world market. This allowed consumers to enjoy a fixed price of fuel at the pump for longer periods of time. It also helped subsidize the prices of other oil related goods like the cost of food and essentials.

According to a published article by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies in February 2000, the deregulation of the oil industry was meant to stabilize and provide reasonable prices for fuel, to encourage competition, to encourage investments, and to remove cross product subsidies. It can be argued that except for stabilizing and providing reasonable prices for fuel, all else has been achieved. In fact, fuel prices have been anything but stable and reasonable. 

For a developing nation such as ours, reliance on imported oil products determines the prices of everyday goods. With the absence of a proper train network, our industries’ dependency on trucks to deliver raw materials and finished goods has made our economy vulnerable to fluctuations in world oil prices. 

During the initial lockdowns imposed here and abroad, the prices of oil in the world market  fell to their lowest point in decades. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil even traded below zero in April 2020 as industries stopped, cars stayed home, and worldwide travel ground to a halt. During that brief moment in time, we saw how the oil industry was affected by the lack of demand and oversupply. Which raises the question, “Could this be the future of mobility without gasoline and diesel?”

For the meantime, however, we have to endure another round of price increases as the Philippines’ Big Three oil companies, and the competition, announced adjustments in fuel pump prices. Another Php1 per liter increase for gasoline; Php 0.70 per liter for kerosene, and Php 0.65 per liter for diesel. Premium grade fuel is now sold at Php 61.25 per liter in some stations. And probably even more in others. 

As the economy opens up again and more vehicles make their way back on our crowded streets, the demand for fuel rises too. So what can we do to cope with these fluctuating fuel prices? More importantly, what can we do as motorists to reduce the demand for fuel and hence, contribute to bringing down its cost to fellow consumers? Here are a few suggestions on how we can curb our addiction to fuel.

Crowd of anonymous people walking on the city street

Don’t use your car

This seems quite obvious. But it is easier said than done. In a country without an efficient public transportation network, giving up the convenience and comfort of one’s personal car is already too much to ask. 
The continuing rapid spread of COVID-19 has not made the choice any easier as well. With health and safety now primary considerations for buying and using a private car, it will be a stretch to get people to shift to public transportation. 

But perhaps using it less often, riding a bike for short distances, or even just parking your car in a lot and taking the P2P bus might be more viable options. 

Change your driving style

Being light footed on the throttle can actually help increase your car’s mileage. And with better mileage, there is less demand for fuel. Instead of flooring the loud pedal, why not gently squeeze it instead? Learn how to back off the throttle on downhill slopes or when approaching an intersection. You can even use your car’s instantaneous fuel consumption meter to guide you on how hard to step on the gas pedal. The lighter you depress the pedal, the higher the kilometer per liter reading you will get. Keep it high for a longer period of time and you will save more fuel in the process.

Shift early

Moving up the gears at the optimum time and not wringing out the revs on your car’s engine lets you save fuel. If you are driving an automatic, keeping the revs hovering at around 2,000 is enough to induce the transmission to shift up. Today’s cars are smart enough to know how best to optimize their operation. If you work with the car to achieve smoothness and efficiency, you will be rewarded with fuel savings along the way.

Use the breaks less often

Every time you step on the brake pedal, you lose speed. The thing is, every time you lose speed you actually consume more fuel to get back to how fast you were. That is why when braking, do not leave it to the last moment so the drop in speed will not be too drastic. Just brake light and early. The more you conserve your speed, the less fuel you consume. 

Raise your air conditioning temperature

As tempting as it is to set your car’s air conditioning to 18-degrees Celsius all the time, it is not the most economical way to enjoy its benefits. Keeping the thermostat at this low temperature adds additional load to the engine as it keeps the compressor on to reach this level of coldness. Raising the temperature into the low to mid-20s lets you drive in comfort without the fuel consumption penalty.

Lighten the load

Extra cargo housed in the trunk is added weight that the car has to carry. And this has a negative effect on your car’s fuel consumption. So it would help your car’s fuel efficiency to bring down unnecessary cargo even for short trips.

Maintain tire pressure

Keeping your car’s tires in the proper pressure range will not only help prolong their usefulness, but also provide the correct distance readings on your car’s computer. The less rolling resistance on properly inflated tires also lets your car roll off with less effort and therefore less fuel consumption.

Minimize idle time

Keeping your engine running without moving is a sure fire way to waste fuel. Not only are you not adding mileage in the kilometer per liter equation, it is also not good for the environment. It basically goes against the “use your car only when necessary” philosophy. Skip the idling and your wallet will thank you in the long run.

Keep you car properly maintained

An efficient running engine is key to getting the best mileage your car can muster. Regulage oil changes and tune-ups are necessary to lessen the friction and resistance inside the engine. By doing regular PMS and replacing items that need to be replaced, you can get more power from every drop of fuel you load up. 

By adopting various fuel-saving techniques, we can do our fair share to help reduce the demand for fuel. It is small initiatives such as these that help us find the right balance between comfort and social responsibility. Collectively, if we work towards the same goal, we might just come out of this better, smarter, and perhaps even healthier. 

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