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    Gas prices drive Istanbul to use coal, wood

    by Sevim Songün
    11.11.2008 - 00:00 | Son Güncelleme:

    ISTANBUL - As natural gas prices rose 60 percent over the last 10 months for both residential and industrial use, some people are planning to replace natural gas heating systems with coal- or wood-burning stoves.

    "I live in a house heated by natural gas. I will buy a stove and light coal and wood. Otherwise, the house will be cold during the winter as we cannot pay the bills," said Muhlis Şengül, a retiree looking for a cheap stove in Eminönü.

    Recent debates as to whether stove sales have boomed in response to natural gas price increases, are ongoing. Stove sellers of Istanbul claim there has not been an actual boom in sales, but believe it is too early to say.

    "Stove sales have increased a little, with more and more people asking about stove prices," said Şükrü Akaç, 70, who has sold stoves for over 50 years at the stove market in Istanbul’s Eminönü.

    "It is still warm outside. Many people look at stoves but not so many are buying yet. When the weather becomes colder, we expect a greater increase in stove sales," said Akaç.

    The Turkish Petroleum Pipeline Corporation, or BOTAŞ, announced the price of natural gas for residential properties would increase by 22.5 percent as of Nov. 1. However, earlier price increases have not yet been reflected in bills as people have not used natural gas for heating since last winter and only in the past month have the temperatures decreased enough to justify turning on the heaters. "As soon as people get their first gas bill, most low- and middle-income owners will rush out to buy stoves," said Recep Kapakçı, a salesperson at the Eminönü stove market.

    "People wrongly think that the price increase is around 20 percent, however since last winter, there has been around a 100 percent increase in gas prices for residential use," said Kapakçı.

    However, some stove sellers are pessimistic, saying their customers are already low-income people and are too poor to buy new stoves.

    "The purchasing power of low-income people is too low, which is why we can no longer afford to operate," said Ahmet Çekiç, who plans to close his store. Stove prices are between YTL 25 and YTL 400 at the Eminönü market. "Some people want to bargain for the cheapest stoves. They cannot even afford to pay YTL 25," said Çekiç.

    Coal prices also increased this year so some people are reluctant to abandon natural gas for coal heating.

    "The cost of 25 kilograms of coal was YTL 9 last year. It increased to YTL 17 this year," said Nesrin Kadıoğlu, a retired bank employee.

    Although coal prices have also increased, she still uses a stove because natural gas prices are much higher. Low-income earners will choose to burn coal and wood this winter, she said.

    "Coal prices doubled this year, but it is still cheaper compared to using natural gas," said Nuri Kısa, a retiree.



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