ECONOMY

Lower heating fuel prices come into effect today

Greece’s government and its fuel retailers yesterday continued to differ on the price range at which heating diesel will be sold for the winter period today. «Some estimates that refer to prices as high as 39 cents a liter are excessive. I see heating fuel being sold at around 31-33 cents a liter. All the preparatory work we have done point to this price level, which is about the same, or perhaps slightly better than last year’s,» said Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos. In contrast, fuel distributors predicted the price range will be 34-38 cents a liter, citing data provided by 13 petroleum marketing companies. The tax on heating fuel is reduced from 245 to 21 euros per ton between October 16 and April 30. The Development Ministry’s General Secretary Giorgos Agrafiotis said international prices for heating diesel are at last year’s levels, although he said consumers should be aware that prices are not directly dependent on the price of oil; moreover, he said marketing companies have provided assurances that consumer prices will stay about the same. Illegal practices He said a recent intensive drive of inspections to combat the very extensive illegal trade in fuel is bearing fruit, as data for the January-September period shows that the consumption of industrial diesel has gone up by 11 percent. Taking advantage of the lower price of heating diesel due to the lower tax in winter, distributors widely employ an illegal decoloring process and sell it as industrial diesel, which is subject to a much higher tax, pocketing the difference. The deception is evidenced by the fact that consumption of automotive diesel goes into a disproportionate decline in winter. In an attempt to combat the phenomenon, the government 10 days ago halved the tax on automotive and industrial diesel from 245 to 120 euros per ton, also targeting a reduction in production costs of between 2 and 5 percent. It also brought the tax on fuel for farmers into parity with the heating diesel tax, from 245 euros to 21 euros per ton, according to recent EU regulations. The Federation of Gas Station Owners has said the reductions will favor the further growth of smuggling and the illegal fuel trade. Agrafiotis said inspections will continue to combat the phenomenon.