THE proposed introduction of mandatory blending of ethanol (E5) and unleaded petrol is expected to reduce the fuel import bill by at least 5%, but some motorists fear the blended fuel could damage their engines.
Some types of vehicles do not accept blended fuel, particularly imports from Japan and the United Kingdom.
Experts say some vehicles would need to be equipped with special parts to be able to use blended fuel, which would be an additional cost to affected motorists.
The Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (Zera) last week said it had fixed the starting wholesale price of the ethanol produced for mandatory blending at $0,95c per litre for the first 90 days, but will review the price every three months.
Zera, however, assured members of the public the quality specification of E5 fuel conforms to the Standards Association of Zimbabwe and is based on internationally recognised quality standards. It would be safe for use in all petrol-powered engines.
The energy regulator said the introduction of E5 is in line with global trends in the deployment of bio-fuels, adding that the benefit of using the fuel would include, among others, reduction in vehicle tailpipe emissions, improvement in the octane rating of fuel and energy security for the country.
Bulawayo-based economic analyst Eric Bloch, told Southern Eye Business that mandatory petrol blending, expected to reduce the petrol price to as low as $0,95 per litre from the current average costs of $1,50 per litre, will reduce the fuel import bill by an estimated 5%.
“The fuel import bill will go down by 5% and this is a positive step considering the country’s ballooning import bill,” Bloch said.
Zimbabwe spends an estimated $45 million a month to import between 30 million and 40 million litres of petrol which continues to increase the country’s widening trade deficit.
The country’s trade deficit in the four months to April widened to $1,6 billion due to high dependency on imported finished products against exports of raw materials.
Bloch said the new development would also help ease inflation pressures, as almost all businesses were dependent on transport in their operations.
Economic analyst John Robertson echoed the same sentiments and said the mandatory blending will reduce the fuel import bill.
“But fuel prices will increase with time as the company involved will incur increased costs of production with time due to the rising cost of labour,” Robertson said.
The Motor Traders’ Association of Zimbabwe’s outgoing president Ben Khumalo said the introduction of the mandatory blending of petrol was a welcome development for the motor industry as it will reduce the cost of fuel.
“This is good news for us and we encourage our members to use the blended fuel which is compatible with any engine and is at low cost,” Khumalo said.
But some motorists asked by Southern Eye Business yesterday, said while welcoming an expected reduction in the price of fuel they had reservations about the effect of blended fuel on their car engines.
“This fuel is not good for my engine and I am afraid it will block my filters,” one kombi operator Bhekisipho Mlambo said. Twitter feedback@mudarikirig