Natural gas price hike denied after rumours spark panic buying

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 March, 2013, 8:28pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 March, 2013, 8:28pm

Authorities denied rumours of a nationwide hike in natural gas prices after long queues were seen outside natural gas selling stations in a number of cities across China.

“This is absolutely groundless,” 21st Century Business Herald quoted an official from the National Development and Reform Commission as saying on Tuesday, who said he had already answered numerous inquiries.

He told the Herald the nation’s energy giants had drafted at least six different price reform proposals, but the issue had not yet been brought before the State Council, the last step before executive measures are issued.

Queues outside natural gas selling stations were seen in a number of cities in at least seven provinces over the past two days. Many citizens were said to have bought large amounts of gas ahead of the anticipated price hikes. In Xian, local media reported one citizen bought 3,000 cubic metres of natural gas, enough for an average household for 10 years.

The panic buying was thought to have been inspired by an article in the China Business Times published on Monday. The report quoted an anonymous source as saying in April the retail price of natural gas across China would reach between 3 and 3.5 yuan per cubic metre, an increase of as much as one yuan.

Meanwhile, local retailers and price bureaus in different cities said they had not been notified of price increases. Any price changes must go through hearings before they are implemented, price bureaus said.

A commentary on news portal has called on authorities to punish the Chinese Business Times. “[Government] should at least urge the Times to explain the situation and issue an apology to the public. Whoever is responsible should be punished,” it said.