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Repetition

AGAIN “GASOLINE FEVER”?

According to experts, in April-May, another gasoline crisis may “cover” us.

Igor MORGARETTO

… The inhabitants of Krasnodar felt the first fresh breath of the crisis. In February, gas prices suddenly "grew up" quickly: A-76 began to cost 7 rubles., AI-92 - about 8, and for a liter of "95th" already asked for 9 rubles! And this despite the fact that part of the gas station unexpectedly closed! Moreover, the process of refueling a car in the province has now turned into a kind of “Russian roulette”: if you are lucky, the filling pistol “shoots” a portion of gasoline in the tank, if you are not lucky, it will pour something that resembles fuel only by smell …

STEPS ON THE RAKE

Why is this happening in a country where there has been no planned state economy for a long time and it seems that the laws of the market should work? They must, but for some reason they don’t work. Let us return once more to the lessons of the 1999 gasoline crisis.

At one time, the entire territory of our poor rich Russia was divided into “spheres of influence” between oil companies. They cut the rags as scissors: someone went to the Omsk region, someone to the Penza region … For example, if LUKoil is responsible for the Volga region, only he has the right to supply oil products to the region. Such is the market economy, such is the competition in the national way.

So last year's fuel crisis simply could not fail to happen. Everything is very simple: in some region, at some point, the demand exceeds the available gasoline reserves. Interruptions begin, then - rush demand. The "local" oil company is not able to satisfy him, and the owners of gas stations are forced to take goods from resellers. Retail prices are rising, etc. The crisis has gone. Although, according to experts, it could have been prevented.

“In May of last year, when a severe gasoline crisis broke out in St. Petersburg, there was fuel in Moscow - at least pour it in, ” recalls Sergey Borisov, president of the Russian Fuel Union. - Theoretically, the Moscow surplus could be quickly transferred to St. Petersburg, but we have no information exchange system in the industry! And while our businessmen learned from media reports that in the Leningrad Region kilometer-long lines at gas stations, while they gave a command and several trains that brought fuel from Bashkiria to Moscow, turned north - how much time has passed? The crisis flywheel has already managed to unwind in full force …

What did the government offer to combat the crisis? Under the pressure of the then First Deputy Prime Minister, the largest oil companies were forced to sign a cartel agreement, under which they pledged to “freeze” prices. After that, tensions in the gasoline market … increased even more. Those regions that were able to buy fuel at fixed prices used this “to the fullest”, requiring more fuel than usual, sometimes 2-3 times. Where are all these "surpluses" now? Aw! ..

So, we soon had to forget about obligations under the cartel agreement.

INEVITABLE, HOW THE COMING OF SPRING?

Some economists have already come to the sad conclusion: the oil crisis in Russia will recur again, and this will happen in late spring. Because none of the causes of last year’s crisis has been eliminated - less gas is produced than necessary, it is still more profitable to sell it abroad than on the domestic market, oil companies live on their own, and the retail chain also … In Moscow all winter they kept fuel reserves for 45 days (with a standard of 10-12 days), although it was more profitable not to “deaden” capital, but to sell the surplus to other regions.

It cannot be said that absolutely no measures are taken to suspend or at least slightly alleviate the crisis. The Russian Fuel Union, which unites the country's leading fuel sales associations, for example, invited oil companies, the Ministry of Fuel and Energy and the Ministry of Antimonopoly Policy to sign a general agreement “On improving the system for providing regional oil products and preventing crisis situations”. RTS believes that for starters it is necessary to create a system of information about the real production, consumption and sale of gasoline, and this alone will help to avoid fuel shortages in the regions and prevent sharp price spikes. Such a system, they say, is already working in Moscow, and this allowed the capital and the region to relatively calmly survive last year’s crisis.