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Possible fuel shortages as prices increase again: South Africa is at the mercy of international fluctuations

South Africa has been teetering on the edge of a full-blown energy crisis for months. This is because independence, which was the cornerstone of the country's energy policy for years, has been neglected since the ANC's takeover in 1994.

Generally speaking, electricity is considered the preferred form of energy for an industrially developed country. Where that is not possible, liquid fuel is used.

In practice, it means that petrol and diesel are used for road transport, electricity for households, trade, railway transport and factories.

Not one of these resources is found in a usable form in nature, and it requires sophisticated processes to convert natural resources to electricity. That is the context in which a culture of innovation and independence was exchanged for one of convenience and dependence.

Coal has been the foundation of South African energy generation for more than a century. Eskom uses coal to generate electricity, while heavy industries use it directly. In the fifties, Sasol started to exploit it for even greater value: Not only for petrol and diesel, but also for fertiliser, plastic, candle wax and other chemical products.

Sasol could never ensure total independence of foreign crude oil, but various refineries created the capacity for South Africa to import crude oil and even become an exporter of liquid fuel in its final form.

Enough surplus crude oil could be stored to overcome any interruptions in the supply of raw material.

In the eighties, South Africa was one of the very few countries that boasted domestically developed nuclear power. The Koeberg nuclear power plant would have continued to supply safe, reliable and cheap power if the people possessing the necessary expertise were valued and remained employed there.

However, 1994 marked a turning point because a democratic South Africa was welcomed into the international community of nations. As a result, attempts to maintain energy independence were seen as expensive and unnecessary.

The refusal to invest in Eskom has come up time and again.

Less obvious was the lack of investment in new refineries to meet changing fuel needs. The growing demand for fuel was met by importing the final product, and seemingly redundant facilities closed down.

Nearly 60% of the country's fuel has been imported since.

At present, the country faces a looming perfect storm: The neglect of Eskom's coal-powered electricity generation creates an enormous demand for diesel. Diesel must now be imported at a time of record-high prices and low availability.

Next year's food must be produced at unaffordable high fuel prices. The potential of strikes to disrupt supply recently became evident as well.

Former premier Gen. Jan Smuts said that in South Africa, neither the best nor the worst ever happens. If electricity continues to become more expensive and scarce, and the same goes for diesel that fuels road transport and food production, the economy could grind to a halt.

The consequences of a sophisticated economy collapsing are much more disastrous than one that never reached those heights.

FF Plus supporters will only benefit from a functional economy. So, they are willing to do what needs to be done to help the country recover.

Unfortunately, they are pushed aside by Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) and transformation targets.

In the face of the looming crisis, citizens are encouraged to do everything in their power to gain energy independence on household, and even community, level. Independent energy supply paves the way for cultural and political autonomy.

That is the condition for gaining freedom from the current government, which is simultaneously oppressive and collapsing.

The ANC must be defeated at the polls and in the economy.

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