Friday, June 27, 2008

Don't waste money on "premium" petrol

Now that petrol prices are so high, who can afford to buy “premium” or “high-spec” petrol any more? But does premium petrol provide any benefits in the first place, and is regular petrol “low grade”? In Malaysia, regular petrol is sold at 2.62/liter, premium at RM2.70/liter, while high-spec petrol such as Shell V-power goes for RM3.00/liter or more.

The bottom line is, unless your car manual specifically mentions it, there is no need to use premium petrol. And regular car engines do not benefit from it. Even cars like Porsches will still run fine on regular petrol (see the USA Today article below).

Cecil Adams, who writes “The Straight Dope” column, tackled this issue as far back as 2004:
What's the difference between premium and regular gas?

A USA Today article from 2003 also covered this ground. The writer quotes oil company engineers and technical experts from car companies:
Why use premium gas when regular will do?

More recently, a Scientific American article from Jan 2007 provides the last word on this topic:
Fact or Fiction? Premium Gasoline Delivers Premium Benefits to Your Car
The sub-heading is: “Exploding the myth that premium gasoline delivers better performance in the average automobile”. The writer quotes a mechanical engineer at the California Institute of Technology, and a chemist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Here are the best quotes from these three articles:

“Using high-octane gas in a car designed for regular accomplishes little except more rapid combustion of your money.” - Cecil Adams

There is "no way of taking advantage of premium in a regular-grade car," - Bob Furey, chemist and fuels specialist at General Motors.

... for standard cars on the road today, purchasing premium gasoline is simply paying a premium for a fuel that delivers no added benefits. "If you think you need it," Green (MIT chemist) says, "you're being very eccentric."

In a related issue, my pal Riggy, who blogs about motoring, notes that higher octane petrol requires more processing at the refinery, and thus, has a higher environmental impact. Brendan I. Koerner covered this angle in Slate:
The Premium Premium: Is high-octane gas bad for the environment?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

No coverage for you

I have to applaud the local media for their great (if belated) display of backbone. Parliament's administration recently banned journos from entering the lobby, citing "security reasons". This is an important area for the press because press conferences are held here, and journos also have the opportunity to approach ministers and MPs directly to get comments. This week though, the area was cordoned off with red tape, and security guards were stationed around the perimeter. Yup, literally red tape.

In response, journos boycotted almost all press conferences, and photogs downed their cameras. They even snubbed the PM's and deputy PM's press conferences! This would have been unimaginable during the Mahathir era.

I fully sympathise with these journos and photogs because I've had the misfortune of covering "garmen" events before. Many ministers and deputies have a condescending, even hostile attitude towards journalists. Even in the rarefied field of IT journalism, everyone hates to cover "minister events".

Also, Parliament is one of the toughest beats for journos. Not only do they have to deal with deadline pressure and stiff competition, they have to get the story absolutely "right" and "perfect" because Parliament stories get a lot of scrutiny. Plus, they need to deal a lot with spin doctoring, backtracking, and "after the fact-ing", as in "what he really meant to say was...". Sometimes, a journo is even accused of misquoting or mishearing a minister, even though the statement is on tape, and clearly audible.

Sin Chew Daily executive editor-in-chief Kuik Cheng Kang said it best - “Reporters are there to do our jobs, not celebrate birthdays. Please do not punish us for working.”

(Pic credit: The Star)

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Petrol up 40%

Well, it's finally happened. The govt has removed most (all?) of the subsidies for petrol and diesel.

These subsidies were unsustainable anyway, with as much as RM40 Billion (with a B) paid out last year. That was money not being spent on infrastructure development, healthcare, education, public safety or agricultural programmes.

All kinds of money-making schemes arose as a result of these fuel subsidies, particularly smuggling or reselling. Economists would call this "arbitrage". Worse, we (the taxpayers) were subsidising the Thais, Indonesians, and Singaporeans, who earn more than us.

Anyway, here's what you need to know:

From RM1.92 to RM2.70 (up 40.6%)

From RM1.58 to RM2.58 (up 63.3%)

Take note of those percentages, because business owners will have to pass on these costs to consumers.

I'm a bit more fortunate than others, because I get around mostly with my kapchai (low-cc motorcycle). A full tank for my kapchai, which lasts 3 days, used to cost me about RM5.30. Now it'll cost me RM8.00. I expect kapchais will become more popular after this.

Plus, I hope there's a push for more fuel-efficient vehicles and also alternative-fuel vehicles.

(Image ganked from Waleska Alsieux's blog.)