Vietnamese concerned as biofuel proposed to replace traditional fuel

By Anh Minh   May 4, 2018 | 09:05 pm PT
Vietnamese concerned as biofuel proposed to replace traditional fuel
An employee pumps petrol for clients at a petrol station in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo by Reuters/Kham
People fear that they are being forced to buy a product they are not interested in.

A new proposal to replace the most popular gasoline in Vietnam with biofuel is raising concerns among experts and consumers who said it will force them to buy a lesser product.

The idea of replacing the current 95-octane gasoline A95 with E5 biofuel was proposed by Tran Minh Ha, deputy director of Saigon Petro at a meeting between fuel companies and the Ministry of Industry and Trade on Wednesday.

E5 is a locally-produced biofuel that the government has been trying to promote for years. Starting from January 1, the government has officially replaced the 92-octane A92 with the ethanol-blended E5, which is a mixture of 95 percent of A92 and 5 percent of ethanol.

With prospects of A95 being wiped off the market, drivers feel they are being forced to switch to the E5 biofuel, which they don’t want.

Although studies conducted by Hanoi University of Technology have found that the E5 mixture is good for engines while producing fewer emissions, Vietnamese drivers are still hesitant because they fear that it can cause fire or damage their vehicles’ engine and parts.

“No policy should compel people to purchase a product. Authorities need to make careful calculations with the public’s preference taken into consideration,” said Ngo Tri Long, former director of Market Research Institute under the Ministry of Finance.

Although E5 is reportedly used by 42 percent of drivers, the quality of this mixture has not convinced the public, Long said.

As there is currently only one company producing E100 alcohol in Vietnam, an ingredient of the E5 mixture, there won’t be enough supply to produce biofuel should A95 be taken off the market, he added.

Local fuel businesses have been trying to promote ethanol fuel by lowering its price. However, the price difference between E5 biofuel and the popular A95 is not substantial enough to attract drivers, according to Tran Ngoc Nam, deputy general director of Vietnam Petroleum Group (Petrolimex).

In a VnExpress survey of over 13,000 readers, 88 percent said they do not want the familiar A95 to be withdrawn from the market.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade said on Thursday that they will take the matter into consideration and ask for directions from the government.

Most countries in the world still offer consumers a choice between ethanol and gasoline. The United States, Brazil and European Union are leading the change in biofuel usage, producing and consuming about 80 percent of the world’s total, according to Bioenergy Australia. Thailand plans to increase its biofuel consumption from 7 percent of total fuel energy use to 25 percent by 2036.

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