The novel coronavirus that brought motorized movement across much of the world to an abrupt halt also saw daily demand for fuel evaporate by millions of barrels. Combustion engines under the hoods of road vehicles have seen sputters of re-ignition since, but a large share of aircraft jets remain idle, as also railway locomotives and other machines whose thirst for hydrocarbons seemed insatiable not long ago.
Now that mobility in India has regained some of its disrupted momentum and global trends point to a future of cleaner energy, our country’s relative significance as a market for oil looks set to go up. The broad scenario could not have been better for us to signal this gathering clout, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi did on Monday. Speaking at a virtual energy conclave attended by Saudi oil minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, whose voice within the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) cannot be overestimated, Modi outlined a national plan that would contain our carbon footprint, increase the use of gas as a fuel, and hike our annual oil refinery capacity from 250 to 400 million tonnes in a few years.
With India’s crude imports projected to rise robustly, he expressed the hope that OPEC would not squeeze supply unfairly, and made a pitch for sweeter deals in terms of lower prices and longer credit periods