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‘Stop wearing suits’: Minister turns heat on senators over fuel crisis

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Energy Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow responded to senators’ questions about the fuel crisis on Monday by telling them to stop wearing suits, so that air-con can be turned down to save energy.

Supattanapong challenged senators to set an example on how to save energy while he was responding to queries from two senators, Gen Sakon Sajjawanit and Suradet Jirathiticharoen.

The senators asked the minister to explain Thailand’s energy price crisis and measures he has taken to soften its impact on the public. Supattanapong was also asked about his management of the depleted Oil Fuel Fund, which is a record 102.5 billion baht in debt from subsidising pump prices.

He replied that energy prices and the Oil Fuel Fund were double crises for the country and the government was trying its best to minimise impacts.

He added that former finance minister Korn Chatikavanij’s proposal for refineries to top up the Oil Fuel Fund with their profits from the gross refining margin (GRM) was impractical.

The minister said the refineries had benefited from high margins only for the past few months, not for years as alleged by Korn.

Supattanapong said the GRM was just one to two baht, so the government had to be careful in asking refineries to reduce the margin.

“If the refineries stop the oil refining, the government would have to import refined oil and the prices would be much higher,” the energy minister said.

Regarding Oil Fuel Fund management, Supattanapong said the Energy Ministry will cooperate with the Bank of Thailand and Finance Ministry on how to balance fuel subsidies, the baht’s value and the inflation rate.

He added that the oil subsidies were a sensitive issue that could affect business operators and their employees, so the government had to be careful in making its decisions.

The energy minister said the government would campaign for energy saving and would promote the use of recyclable and clean energy.

“The government will campaign for people to minimise electricity use by raising the temperature of their air-conditioners,” Supattanapong said.

“Senators can do it too. You can raise the temperature of air-conditioners in the assembly hall and you can stop wearing suits and neckties. And there should be a tool to measure how much electricity is being saved and we will live-broadcast this to show the public that we have started conserving energy. This will help kick off an energy conservation campaign.”

He added that his ministry was ready to support the Senate in its energy conservation showcase by installing gauges to publicly display power saved.

No reply came from the Senate at the end of the session.

Published : July 04, 2022

By : THE NATION