Government moves to prevent hike in gas

The government acted Wednesday to overrule the price regulating agency and set the cost of liquid petroleum gas at world market level.

The president, Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera, and the minister of Ambiente y Energía, Edgar Gutiérrez Espeleta, signed a decree to that effect.

The regulating agency, the Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos was in the process of establishing a price that was 72 percent higher, based on a mathematical formula.

The prospect of a price increase outraged the industrial sector. Paulina Ramírez Portuguez, a legislator, said earlier Wednesday that Vidriera Centroamericana S.A, a Cartago plant that makes millions of bottles each year, probably would leave the country if the price went up that much. The firm exports about 87 percent of its products and employes more than 600 workers.

The lawmaker noted that the new calculations cut the price of gasoline by 2 percent but raises the price of petroleum gas by 72.16 percent, the price of bunker 35.32 percent and asphalt by 15.64 percent. She noted that there is a hearing on the price hikes today at 5:30 p.m.

More than 500,000 families also use the gas for cooking and hot water.

The presidential decree contained a long list of legal reasons why the executive branch could do this. The government also owns the Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo S.A, the monopoly that imports hydrocarbon products. So there will be no protest from that quarter.

The decree also said that the use of gas was critical so that the country could reach the greenhouse gas levels agreed to at a recent international meeting in Paris.

The country has agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions some 170,500 tons a year until 2030, the decree said.

Bunker and other forms of petroleum fuel do not burn as clean as petroleum gas.

Asphalt also is critical to highway projects, and an increase in cost would raise those prices. A study by the environmental ministry contained a long list of industries that use bunker. Most are manufacturers. Bunker also is used for making concrete.

Costa Rica and Guatemala share the top spot of Central American nations for the price of liquid petroleum gas. The price is 55 U.S. cents a liter. The least expensive is Panamá with a price of 20 cents a liter, where it is subsidized, according to the study.

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