The drastic fall in Iranian oil production is having a serious effect on oil supplies in South Africa.
The drastic fall in Iranian oil production is having a serious effect on oil supplies in South Africa. Economic experts estimate that before the recent troubles South Africa imported up to ninety-five percent of its oil requirements from Iran. The South African government is now forced to replenish stocks from the more expensive world market and a ten percent rise in the price of petrol took effect on Monday (1 January). Strict curbs on consumption by commerce, industry and the general public are also being considered.
SYNOPSIS: Heavy traffic in the centre of Johannesburg shows that the situation in South Africa is not yet critical. However Economic Affairs Minister, Christopher Heunis has already announced a number of new measures.
Newspapers can still afford to joke about the price rise and the extension of existing petrol conservation measures to include diesel fuel. But the government sees the Iranian situation, combined with the recent rise in the price of crude oil as a danger sign to the country's continuing economic revival. So it has restricted opening times in petrol stations to sixty hours a week.
The government realises that measures already in force will have limited effect.
It has set up a working party to investigate new ways of cutting the country's fuel consumption.
Speed restriction introduced following the 1973 oil crisis are still in force. Some police now use sophisticated radar equipment to enforce the limits, though others work in teams timing motorists over measured distances with a stopwatch.
South Africa has large stockpiles of crude oil in anticipation of a politically motivated embargo. Some estimates place these as high as three years' supply. But the government's major worry is that if the Shah's regime fills, no other major oil supplier will be prepared to risk to consequences of dealing with South Africa.
Crude oil imports are vital to heavy industry, agriculture and transport in South Africa. Twenty years' drilling on and off shore has failed to discover any shore has failed to discover any substantial oil reserves. Meanwhile the speed traps continue. Mr Heunis says that no decision about petrol rationing has been taken, but representatives from his department and the oil industry are studying the situation closely.