Gas-Saving Measures May Be Implemented

June 24, 2005

GAS prices are cents away from the$60-per-barrel mark that would promptthe implementation of government restrictionson driving in San José and newwork schedules for public employees.Should the international oil price riseto $60 – as of yesterday it was $59.20 onthe New York Stock Exchange – theMinistry of Environment and Energy(MINAE) will move forward with a contingencyplan to reduce the country’s useof fuel by at least 10%.The plan consists of using licenseplate numbers to prohibit people from drivingin the most congested areas of thegreater metropolitan area at least once aweek; making public-sector employees’workdays begin and end one hour earlier;and conducting a public information campaign.“It is inevitable. We will arrive at $60a barrel,” Environment Minister CarlosManuel Rodríguez told the press Tuesday.“We all use petroleum, so we will all participatein creating a more effective use.”The measures will continue even ifthe price drops below $60, according toPresident Abel Pacheco.“We have to change our way of living,”he said.MINAE estimates the measures couldallow the country to save 10-15% of whatit spends on petroleum, which amountedto $710 million in 2004 and is expectedto reach $900 million this year.By prohibiting vehicles with certainlicense plate numbers from traveling incertain areas at certain times, officialshope drivers will choose not to use theircars at all one day a week.Congestion will be further reduced bya measure requiring public employees towork from 7 a.m.-3 p.m. (they currentlywork 8 a.m.-4 p.m.), Rodríguez said.“If we all leave at the same time forwork, we cause bottlenecking and causeincreased use of petroleum,” he said.On a long-term basis, the governmentis prioritizing construction of secondaryroads to reduce congestion on main arteries,and a proposal for an electric passengertrain, according to a MINAE statement.Rodríguez and Pacheco also said thecountry would begin looking into alternativefuels, such as biodiesel produced in CostaRica from sugarcane and African palm.

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