Ouch!

Filed in Current Affairs, Hong Kong

The price of petrol has just gone up in Hong Kong; again. We're now paying HK$12.66 per litre for normal grade petrol and HK$13.44 for high grade petrol. It's very expensive here but the oil companies don't mind increasing the price every chance they get anyway.

The latest excuse for increasing the price was the world wide cost of oil which recently hit US$61 per barrel, possibly the most expensive it's ever been. It's good and it's bad.

Caltex & Esso

It's good because it means that people will be more conscientious about the cars they buy and how much petrol they consume. It's good because more people will begin buying hybrid cars which are more environmentally friendly but still a little more expensive than a straight petrol burning car. It's good because institutions and companies working on engines that burn water rather than petrol will have more funding and more opportunities to finish their developments and release the final product onto the market.

It's bad because it's affecting the world economy. With higher oil prices, the only winners are the oil distributors and drilling companies. Everyone else loses. Companies' profits decrease. People have to spend more on petrol leaving less for other purchases. Overall, people have less to spend and that hurts the economy and everyone working within the economy. That's why the stock market is still not returning to healthy normal levels; although healthy might not be the proper word to use for a market where almost every company is over-rated.

Current petrol prices For years, we have heard rumours of people, inventors and companies who have worked on alternative engines, who have made progress and then been either bought out by the oil cartels or assassinated by the oil cartels when they refused to sell their inventions. Today's world is probably twenty years behind what it could have been in technological advancement if all of the world's inventions were allowed to be used and produced, including countless inventions not related to engines. Has anyone heard of the light bulb invented in Japan that doesn't burn out? No replacements needed. That was bought out real quick.

Another rumoured invention was that of an advanced passenger aircraft invented by a scientist in Holland, apparently for the U.S. government. The aircraft used advanced technologies to fly from Europe to the U.S. in just a few hours. That kind of invention wouldn't last long in today's world though. With all of the airlines heavy in debt paying large mortgages on their current aircraft, the last thing they'd want to see is a new airline using planes that can fly four times faster for the same price. They'd all be out of business quicker than you can fry an egg, and the banks holding their mortgages definitely wouldn't like that. Boeing wouldn't like it either and since they're best friends with the U.S. government, nothing that could hurt Boeing's earnings would be allowed onto the market without a major war.

HK$12.66 is a lot of money to pay for petrol. Our car is a very comfortable albeit slightly ageing car with a three litre engine. To drive my wife to work in the morning costs around HK$83 including tunnel fees. That's a little shocking. It's no wonder smart people use the public transport here when they can. Add to that the cost of parking should you want to park your car at or near the office and you'd need to be a millionaire to survive through the year.

As a rule, there is no free parking in Hong Kong unless you're in the countryside. Parking in the city costs anywhere from HK$20 to HK$30 and more per hour. A few car parks even charge HK$50 per hour. That's a lot of money. During SARS and the economic depression, people stopped driving so competition began increasing among car parks. Consequently, a few things occurred. First, the hourly fee came down; just a little. Second, the car parks began using deceptive advertising. Their fee boards at the car park entrance would show the fee in large friendly letters. It was only after turning into the car park enough that you couldn't back out again that you would discover that the large friendly fee was per half hour, not per hour. It's now common for all car parks to advertise half hour fees rather than hourly fees. In some ways, it's good for the drivers because we can pay per half hour rather than per hour. Overall however, it's still more expensive than it used to be. Some car parks are now charging per quarter hour with a minimum charge of one hour. That gets rather complicated to calculate if you're in a hurry.

The charge-per-half-hour method used by the car parks is similar to the deceptive pricing methods used by the local supermarket chains, most notably ParknShop; owned and run by the infamous Li Ka Shing. They frequently put products on 'special'. If they change the prices frequently enough, people lose track and begin to think the prices really are special when they've actually been increased. My wife and I only buy a few things from ParknShop so we have excellent mental tracking of the prices. For some products, we watch for the fair dinkum discounts and then buy enough to last until the next discount; for example, washing powder and long life milk (fresh milk is way too expensive here).

Everybody loves to increase their prices. The local banks just announced service charge increases due to 'increasing operation costs' even though they continue to profit billions of dollars every year (which is why we keep our savings in bank equities rather than bank accounts). Oil companies increase their prices all the time, usually in response to crude oil price fluctuations. Unfortunately for us, they almost never decrease their prices, even when the crude oil prices fall. Anyone want to guess what the oil companies will do should the crude oil price come back down to US$50 per barrel?

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17 Responses to “Ouch!”
  1. Bridgessy says:

    hi there, thanks for helping us voice out our difficulty of life nowadays, I absolutely agree what you say in the essay. As you say, everything keeps increase , but there is one thing that will never increase, which is our SALARY. Life seems getting tougher & tougher, but I do believe everybody can find their ideal life of living, no matter simple or luxury, the most important is PEACE, NO MORE WAR !

  2. 杜格拉斯 says:

    河生,你應該出o黎參選做議員,我一定支持你,不過你一定入唔到民賤聯,因為你係外國人,成份不良,北角菜菜子都叫曾特首唔好要啲荷蘭水蓋啦,你就算肯都放棄唔到外國人身份o架喇。加上你咁有智慧,人哋一定唔受你玩。白鴿黨都唔啱你,你太年青喇,by their standard >0

  3. 河國榮 says:

    杜格拉斯, I'm not smart enough or cunning enough or sly enough to play those political games, and I wouldn't befriend those who are cunning enough just to be elected. I'd never get in and I'd never survive long. "Dave" was a great movie but almost an impossibility where a good guy became the president of the U.S.A., albeit for only a few months.

  4. Arthur Heng says:

    Bad joke, Douglas.

  5. 杜格拉斯 says:

    Arthur, I agree it is a bad joke, if it were..... .. a joke.

  6. sapphire says:

    Holy Molly! HK$12.66 for 1L of gas? Fortunately we only pay about HK$ 6 for 1L that is the highest rate so far. But unfortunately we’ve got a Japanese-made V8 SUV, which is very high in gas consumption. Your Mr. Li also owns an oil company here but we’ve never been to his “territories” for gas refill due to his rate is slightly higher than Shell. His gas stations are full-service only, no self-service. Self-service means cheaper rate. Besides the cheaper gas, we pay about HK$ 9 for 1L of fresh milk only.
    Milk and eggs etc. are price-controlled by Government. Jealous, eh?

    But don’t forget one thing, “羊毛出自羊身上”. We have to pay sales tax on almost every single item we purchase daily. I think sooner or later, HK Government might implement this policy as well especially when the economy starts booming again. This is a very good chance to generate revenue for them. So, no matter where we live, life is not easy.

  7. sapphire says:

    河生,
    你好!前兩天我看電視天氣報告時聽到一個有關汽車節省汽油的小貼士;他說在炎熱的夏天,千萬不要把汽車的 gas tank 入油入得太滿, 因為天氣炎熱時汽油本身會自動 expand,如果油缸太滿時汽油就會從 vent hose 溜出缸外面,浪費了一些汽油,這個講法我都是第一次聽到,不過你自小在澳洲長大,這方面的常識應該比我多。我只知道在寒冷的冬天一定要把油缸入滿,免得有很多 condensation 聚積在 gas tank 裡,因這樣會影響汽車的performance。

    (TGIF:-) It has been a long long week after a lengthy leave from work).

  8. HanaMaru says:

    It's not a surprise that gas prices has been going up across the world. As in the States, our gas prices has been going up tremendously too.

  9. Felix says:

    ya.same as here at malaysia.our country had already rising the price of the different petrol many times already.i think about 5 times already.just hope the oil price will drop later

  10. 河國榮 says:

    Sapphire,

    I almost never drove while living in Australia. the expansion advice makes sense although I'd expect car manufacturers to allow for expansion when designing the car. if expansion was a big problem, there'd be explosions in the newspapers all the time during Summer.

    in winter, how would you get condensation in the gas tank? condensation requires moist air and the air is usually dry in the Winter months.

  11. sapphire says:

    Tsang just unveiled his first CE Annual Policy Address this week. Is there any surprise to your guys? Or just old wine in a new bottle?
    During the past 12 months soaring energy prices pushed our province’s surplus several times more than what had been projected in annual budget. Skyrocketing fuel prices are obviously a political responsibility of the government. So recently our Premier announced that every taxpayer would get a tax-exempt energy rebate check equivalent to HK$ 2,600 (per head) by this fall from the province's energy revenue windfall. He also promised that his Tory government will still give energy rebates this winter to subsidize residents pay for the high home heating bills as fuel prices remain volatile.
    Except for the huge surplus from energy revenue, another possibility of this rebate is the Tories paving the way for next election. No matter what the truth is, rebate is good news for us. At least it could subsidize my X'mas shopping a few weeks later.:-)
    FYI, I got some difficulties when previewing and posting comments to your site over the past several weekend mornings (your time around 10:00pm). A message of “waiting for typePad.com” always appeared on status bar for 3-4 minutes. Is that supposed to mean typePad.com’s server (or yours)very busy? I’m using Shaw cable high-speed Xtreme Internet which is the fastest in town so far, shouldn’t be any problem on my side, eh? The best timing for posting is in the evening (your time around dawn); the speed is very fast. Might be due to you and all your visitors from Asia and Pacific Rim are sleeping at that time.(?)

  12. cheer4 says:

    lol..i just found this site two days ago and am slowly going through it..(yay July..3 more months to go thru before November)...I'm Chinese Canadian..born in Canada. I've always wanted to move to HK-lol, as a kid my dad channel-locked all the english channels so I grew up watching Chinese TV (in Toronto that basically means mostly TVB programs + some local). I do love Toronto tho.

    With the supermarket doing the "special" as a scam, if this happened in Canada, they would have had much legal trouble. An athletic company called Sportchek did something similar a couple years back. They displayed sale on their products. There was an old price crossed out and then this new "sale" price. The truth was that the the old price was made up, and that the product was never at the retail price of that higher amount. The sale price was only a little less than the suggested retail price. By doing this they tried to make it look like it was a bigger sale than it really was. The company continued this scam for more than a year and eventually got into legal trouble about false advertising. In the end, SportChek had to allow all customers that wanted to refund their purchase even if they had bought the product a year ago. They also had to display a sign at every cash register of their store that explained what they had done for the year.

    On another note, the expensiveness of owning a car is exactly why I haven't gotten my drivers liscense yet (I'm 16). Before I became of age to get my G1 (learner's permit), I really wanted to. But now that I think of it, it's pointless at this point because my dad always has the car. Plus Toronto is so convienent with public transit. I take the TTC to school, gymnastics, piano lesson, work (I coach gymnastics and work in retail),cheerleading practise,etc.

    Well I'm gonna sleep now..it's 2:26 am in Toronto and I have to coach a gymnastics class at 10am...

  13. Wing Liu says:

    Well, in the UK it was 95p per Litre (HK$13.30 about) a few months ago and slowly going back down to about 84p per Litre (HK$11.76 about).

    But you know what, the GOVERNMENT's TAX is about 40 pence per Litre (HK$5.60 about) - what can normal people DO.

    Worst still, we have VERY bad + expensive public transportation (especially the TRAIN which will go up by 8-9 pc - MORE THAN INFLATION in the UK)? At least TRAM, TAXI, FERRY, MTC and TRAINS are relatively cheaper and BETTER (reliable) in HK.

  14. Stephen says:

    It's Feb 27, 2006. I don't know if anyone is still reading this blog or comments. Anyhow, to answer Greg's question on why the gas lines or gas tank of the car would freeze with condensation. As a Canadian I take the liberty to answer that question using my knowledge in the automotive industry for more than 10 years. Even though it's cold here in the winter, but the car moves and the exhaust pipes emits heat. When you get heat and mix it with the cold air, you'd get condensation. Also, one driving in the winter would turn on the heater. As a result, the car will be warm enough and on top the engine is hot. So as a result, condensation around pipes will be inevitable. Thus I've been trained to keep the gas tank full at all times during the winter. Then again, sometimes, laziness will claim it victory.

    Cheer4, you must be living downtown T.O. In the suburbs, like Markham, where I live, it's not the case. Have you ever waited 45 mins for TTC bus? One time, many moons ago, I was hurrying to the bus stop and saw it leaving. I wouldn't wanna go back and relive this experience. Anyhow, gas prices is kinda on the decline now, but I know it won't last long. Just that is bugs me that these Gas companies are playing games and we can't do anything about it, for if we want to continue to drive, we must pay the price. Nuff said.

  15. spinner says:

    I am in LA and paying around $2.90 per gallon. HK$12.66 per litre times 3.79 equal to one gallon. Wow, HK people paying US 6.231 per gallon. That's too much!

  16. Cup says:

    Mate, I'm a bit late to this topic. But I totally agree with you. Now the price is even higher.... over $13/L
    And ... it's like a status to be driving in HK. Kinda Strange really. You could be driving a old bomb but to mention that you're a driver warrants some type of above the rest look.
    Anyway, even though we've never talked in person I did wish that we could've done so on one of those days when I see you in the TVB canteen. Sad really, as I won't get that chance now (don't work there anymore).

    Take Good care of yourself, and I look forward to seeing you on TV again soon

  17. Irene says:

    In Australia now, we're averaging about $1.50 per litre.

    I can remember how about 5 years ago it was only $0.89 a litre. How times have changed...