The government’s bid to keep costs low and production at its maximum level is positive and some of the steps taken are even somewhat sensible. However, taking the country back into the past and affecting the environment adversely in the process must be avoided at all costs. Prime Minister Imran Khan has asked his Special Assistant on Petroleum, Nadeem Babar to review a proposal to reintroduce 80-82 Research Octane Number (RON) petrol for two-wheelers in the country.

The rationale behind this idea is that Pakistan can utilise many of the obsolete refineries that cannot produce higher quality fuel – even though the most imperative need for the country is to improve efficiency, not downgrade on goods and services so that lower quality production mechanisms can be re-employed. Pakistan already lags behind on many fronts compared to the rest of the world, emissions standards being one of them. For long-term sustainable development that also improves the economy, it is important that Pakistan improves upon efficiency and sustainability now, not at a later time when the cost of doing so is much higher. Not only this, but a new fuel type would affect both the supply chain (requiring alternative storage capacities) and would require more installation costs for petrol pumps, such as needing additional nozzles for a different fuel type.

The fuel that has been out of use in Pakistan for over three decades, 80-82ON petrol will be of both lower quality and will lead to more emissions – which is bad for both the environment and the vehicles that use it. Only two years ago, the country shifted from 87RON to 92RON to meet international fuel standards – reintroducing an outdated and more pollutive fuel in the country will mean that Pakistan falls short of yet another international criterion, one which it so recently managed to meet. All cost-saving methods are not necessarily desirable, especially if they have negative externalities associated to them.

This comes only days after the Prime Minister called for making 30% of Pakistan’s cars electric by the year 2030. Looking to protect the environment and then days later considering a step that will actively damage it is not only a contradiction in the stance of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), it also reflects a headless approach in all matters of policy. Clearly decisions are being taken on an ad-hoc basis, which tells us that the government has no clear on plan on what to do and how best to do it; right now, PTI’s inexperience is becoming clearer by the day when each decision they make countermands the one made previously.