A large number of gas stations may be forced to close due to growing problems in the sector, the head of the Federation of Gasoline Station Owners (OBE), Michalis Kiousis, said yesterday. In comments to journalists, Kiousis said that more than 500 gas stations have shut up shop since the start of the year, while another 1,000 continue to operate but have scaled down their operations while searching for a buyer. The financial crisis, the drop in consumer incomes and the recent tax hikes on fuel have led to a 30 percent drop in petrol consumption, according to Kiousis. Gasoline prices have soared since the start of the year and now rank among the most expensive in Europe after the government hiked levies on fuel products and value-added tax in a bid to boost state revenues as part of measures to get through the fiscal crisis. Consumers who continue to use their cars are turning to other energy solutions, such as using liquefied natural gas, because of the high petrol costs, Kiousis added. Others who reside close to the country’s border cross into the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) or Bulgaria to fill up their tanks for a price that is 0.40-0.50 euros cheaper per liter than in Greece, he added. Industry sources estimate that illegal imports of fuel into the country are costing the government a great deal in lost tax revenues. The head of the gas station organization called on the government to reduce the levies that have been imposed on petrol, arguing that several tax hikes on fuel have failed to boost state revenues due to the corresponding sharp drop in consumption.