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WILD COOT: This diesel thing

Harry Russell

WILD COOT: This diesel thing

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A young lad called me the other day and asked me to explain the oil dilemma. I confessed to him that these days I am literally in the dark.
He asked: “Why can’t we be like the developed nations, to which we aspire, and have our vehicles use high-grade diesel; just like how we got rid of leaded gasoline?”
He surprised me by saying that certain standard cars are now not sent to Barbados because the makers sent some of their experts here and found that the low-grade diesel was unsuitable for their vehicles. Does that mean that very soon we would not be able to import diesel vehicles?
Does that mean that high-grade, low-sulfur diesel is only for the big rides and that the ordinary ZR vans, trucks, SUV’s and so on, cannot use the high-grade diesel?
He surprised me again by saying that for every gasoline engine vehicle there is a corresponding diesel engine vehicle, and that because most of these diesel vehicle engines are now confined to high-grade diesel, our ability to exercise a less costly choice in buying a diesel vehicle is reduced.
Although youth seemed to be on his side, the lad asked me very embarrassing questions. He suggested that we must ask Trinidad why it sends this low-grade diesel to Barbados and not high-grade diesel. I could not answer.
He tried to break it down for his “dads” the Wild Coot. According to him, we produce about 20 to 25 per cent of our oil needs. This is produced in raw, crude form that has to be refined, when we export it to Trinidad, into bunker C, diesel (both low and high-grade), gasoline, and aeroplane fuel.
Apparently we then reimport the various products to satisfy the full needs of Barbados. The bunker C, a less refined and cheaper fuel, is used by the electricity company, as well as by the Arawak Cement Co. ostensibly because their needs are such that they cannot afford either low or high-grade diesel as it would cost too much to the eventual consumer.
I was intrigued. The youngster started to lecture. I was reminded of my father’s words of wisdom to me as a big man: “A little child shall lead you.”
I asked him if he could drive. He said no, that he was too young, but that he suffers from asthma and that when he is in a vehicle or on the road behind a diesel motor the sulfur affects him badly. He is appealing to the Minister of Health to intercede for him and the many others that suffer from the sulfur emitting from these vehicles and possibly from the Light & Power and Arawak Cement Co.
He figured that the ill effects of sulfur inhalation should be pitted against the decision to go for a slightly higher cost of high-grade diesel.
This was heavy stuff. I asked the lad if he sees demons. He said yes, when he has an asthma attack.
Heaven help him!
“My mother is calling me now,” said the lad, “but I want to say this before I go.”
“Mr Mascoll is poking fire when he speaks about getting it wrong in the purchasing of oil products on the forward market; that when all sorts and every kind were getting their electricity and gasoline cheaper we were getting ours more expensive. This only adds to the misery of higher food prices and cost of living.”
Humbly I had to agree. If a supermarket has to pay more for the delivery of products and for electricity, then the goods have to be retailed at a higher price.
I took the name of the youngster, and promised to send him a present. I had in mine a copy of The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli and took the liberty to mention it to him.
“I have a copy,” he said and proceeded to quote: “When ills are recognized in advance (and only the prudent can do this) they are quickly cured. But when, having gone unrecognized, they are allowed to increase until everyone may recognize them, then remedy is no longer possible.”
“Amen!” I said, and unconsciously bowed my head.