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Posted on  

January 11, 2001

Thailand Sells Gasoline Mixed With Alcohol to Cut Oil Imports

Thailand, which imports almost all its crude oil requirement, started selling gasoline mixed with alcohol to reduce its dependence on imported oil.

The state-owned Petroleum Authority of Thailand sold gasohol, or gasoline mixed with 10 percent ethanol, as much as 3.3 percent cheaper than the normal 95-octane grade gasoline to attract motorists. The company bought the ethanol from a test-plant started by King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The move is part of the government efforts to ``find other energy substitutes for oil whose prices are surging,'' said Viset Choopiban, chairman of Petroleum Authority, in a statement. Crude oil prices surged to a 10-year high in September hurting countries such as Thailand and India who depend on imports for their fuel needs.

Last month, Thailand's cabinet approved plans to build at least four ethanol plants, costing 2.7 billion baht ($64 million) each, to reduce the nation's oil import bill. The government will provide tax incentives to the plants' builders.

The plants, which will take two years to complete, will turn sugar cane and other crops into as much as 2 million liters of ethanol a day, to replace almost 10 percent of the nation's daily gasoline consumption. That would save Thailand about 10 billion baht a year.

High oil prices crimped consumer spending and cut corporate profits leading to a slowdown in the economy. Economic growth more than halved to 2.6 percent in the third quarter last year compared to the year before because of the surge in oil.

Thailand, one of the world's largest exporters of sugar and rice, spent several billion baht to subsidize prices last year as supply exceeded demand. Brazil, the world's second-largest sugar producer after India, is the biggest user of ethanol in cars.

Ford Motor Co., the world's second-biggest automaker, in September signed an agreement with the Thai government to test the use of ethanol in the Ranger pickup truck it assembles in Thailand.  


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