Petrol may be rationed if the war-induced oil crisis persists, the department of mineral resources and energy has warned.
The department appeared before parliament’s portfolio committee on mineral resources and energy on Tuesday, where the focus was high fuel costs and their effect on South African consumers.
Oil prices have hit record highs in recent weeks in response to Moscow’s aggression on Ukraine and bans on Russian exports. Russia is one of the world’s largest crude oil producers. Crude futures eased on Tuesday to about $99 a barrel, falling below the $100 level for the first time since 1 March.
The deputy director general in the department, Tseliso Maqubela, said that if the Russia crisis worsens, the country will have to consider restrictions on how much petrol motorists will be allowed to purchase.
“We may reach a point where we then say you can fill up 50 litres, and that’s it, per visit. But we are not there. I want to emphasise: we are not there. We don’t think we will get there,” Maqubela added.
The department is also considering imposing quotas on diesel exports and prioritising exports to Southern African Customs Union (Sacu) members. “Because we have to make sure our country has sufficient stocks. But then we are able to supply our immediate trading partners in the Sacu countries.”
Maqubela said that the “war situation” means energy-saving measures such as work-from-home mandates must be encouraged. “Companies that can have their people work from home, we think that they will be saving their own workers in terms of transport costs.”
Last week the Mail & Guardian reported that elevated fuel costs will probably hobble plans by local companies to get employees back to offices after two years of working from home because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
On whether the department would ask for the removal of fuel taxes if the war drags on, Maqubela said it believes there is “a better way”. Supporting the public transport sector and food producers will provide much-needed relief to consumers, the department said.
“We are seized with the matter that is in front of us. We continue to monitor global developments. We talk to oil companies on an hourly basis,” Maqubela said.