Ministers of petrol, electricity trade barbs over power cuts

Petroleum Minister Sameh Fahmy and Electricity Minister Hassan Younis had a heated exchange yesterday morning at Egypt's Presidential Palace following a meeting with President Hosni Mubarak, sources said on Thursday.

According to a well-informed source who asked not to be identified, Fahmy accused Younis of "escalating" matters while in the presence of Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif and Shura Council Speaker Safwat al-Sherif, the latter of whom had to intervene to reconcile the two ministers.

During their meeting with the president, the Petroleum Minister insisted that requested natural gas supplies would be forthcoming.

The two ministers, along with leading officials from their respective ministries, met yesterday morning to devise means of ensuring energy supplies and to present a proposed plan for the provision of natural gas and electricity.

According to Fahmy, recent high temperatures and humidity have adversely affected Egypt’s electricity generators, which has led to the spate of recent power outages across Egypt.

Following the meeting, a press conference was held at the Petroleum Ministry at which Fahmy declared that a plan was in place to ensure that the electricity sector would be provided with all its requirements and would remain under constant supervision.

Fahmy also noted that most of Egypt's electricity generators, unlike those in the Gulf States, could not withstand excessive temperatures.

"If it were in my hands, I would have felt the need to tell the public that high temperatures and humidity have caused the problem," said Fahmy.

Egypt has continued to be plagued by power outages, however, even after the two ministers announced the success of recent trials of the use of fuel-oil additives–provided by the Petroleum Ministry–which are in accordance with specifications for use in power plants.

The power outages have affected the supply of drinking water to certain areas of the capital–such as New Cairo, Al-Oboor, Al-Nahda and the districts of Al-Salam–as well as parts of other governorates, all of which continue to suffer frequent water-service interruptions. 

The combination of power outages and water cuts has taken its toll on poultry farms in the Northern Sinai Peninsula, damaged hospital equipment in Ismailia, led to the closure of workshops in Damietta, and resulted in massive losses for factories in Al-Mahalla al-Kubra.

Meanwhile, an official of the South Cairo Electricity Distribution Company alleged that the power distribution center in Cairo's Al-Haram district had a list of names and addresses of  "VIPs" living in the area to ensure their power was not cut.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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