After a rise in the cost of gasoline on Tuesday, Turks are now paying what may be the world’s highest price for the precious liquid.
95-octane unleaded gasoline jumped to 4.62 Turkish Lira ($2.60, or € 1.93 ) per liter on Tuesday. By comparison, the European countries with the highest current gas prices — Italy, Denmark, and the Netherlands — pay € 1.85, € 1.83 and € 1.83, respectively, according to Energy.eu.
These prices make U.S. complaints about the high price of gas seem laughable in comparison: Turkey’s current price at the pump works out to approximately $10 per gallon.
How it got this bad
Turkey’s tax rate for petroleum hasn’t changed since 2002, when a special consumption tax was introduced on imported products. But the country’s increasing demand for petroleum, combined with the fact that it imports 90 percent of the fuel, has steadily driven prices up within Turkey over the past decade.
Worldwide, the price of crude oil is also increasing. The cost per barrel increased from $105 to $107 in February: a jump that translates into an extra annual expense of $800 million for Turkey. The government can’t assume this whole burden itself, which is why Turks are now grumbling at gas stations around the country, according to English daily Today’s Zaman.
Further hurting Turks is the fact that gasoline is traded in U.S. dollars, which have been increasing in value relative to the Turkish Lira this year.
What’s the answer?
To reduce its dependence on foreign petroleum and natural gas, Turkey ought to rapidly develop its renewable and nuclear energy infrastructure, said Fatih Birol, chief economist at the International Energy Agency, on the day that Turkey’s new petroleum prices were announced.
“With growing energy needs, our energy imports will increase as well as the prices we pay, which is a very crucial issue for the country’s current account deficit [CAD],” Birol was quoted as saying in the Zaman.
“By building nuclear power plants and using solar as well as wind power, Turkey’s dependency on foreign imports will decrease. Having nuclear power will bring Turkey more say in the region and in the world.”
Focus should be on renewables, not nuclear
Half of Birol’s advice is wise.
Turkey certainly has an abundance of natural renewable energy sources, although it should focus on its remarkable solar resource and its already rapidly expanding wind energy sector rather than proceeding with more controversial and destructive hydroelectric plants.
But advising Turkey to build a nuclear plant is dangerous. After a 7.2-magnitude slammed eastern Turkey last October, plans to build the country’s first nuclear energy facility seemed to have been dropped. The planned site for Turkey’s first nuclear plant is located on an active fault, near the Mediterranean Sea, whose waters are too warm to properly cool a nuclear reactor.
Furthermore, that nuclear plant would be majority owned and operated by the Russian atomic energy agency, ROSATOM — hardly a way to wean Turkey off of foreign energy dependence.
Although Birol didn’t mention it, Turkey also has the potential to design and build vehicles that run off of renewable resources. A renewable car expo in Izmir last year showcased some of the country’s most cutting-edge models.
Read more about Turkey’s efforts to use less foreign petroleum:
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