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Malaysia to reduce dependence on crude oil: PM

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct. 18 (Xinhuanet) -- Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said Monday his government will look into ways to lessen the country's dependence on crude oil.

Efforts will be made to increase the use of natural gas vehicles in public transportation, to encourage the development ofrenewable energy, to use palm oil as biofuel and to raise energy efficiency, the Prime Minister said in a statement announcing the outcome of the first meeting of the cabinet committee set up to study the impact of rising petroleum prices on the economy.

Abdullah chaired the meeting which was also attended by his deputy, Najib Tun Razak, as well as other ministers and senior government officials.

Skyrocketing crude oil prices, which broke the 50 US dollars per barrel mark last week, will cost Malaysia 4.2 billion ringgit (1.1 billion US dollars) in petroleum products subsidies and 7.3 billion ringgit (1.92 billion US dollars) in revenue yearly.

Oil prices soared to over 55 US dollars a barrel on Monday on fears of a winter supply crunch.

Abdullah said more research and development will go to alternative energy sources, which include solar energy, wind energy and energy generated from biomass.

Abdullah also said that efforts will be undertaken to encouragemore buildings to use the low-energy office concept.

The cabinet, at its weekly meeting on Oct. 13, agreed to establish a cabinet committee to study the impact of the hike in petroleum product prices on the country's economy and look into ways to lessen its dependence on petroleum products.

Abdullah said Monday's meeting noted that the five sen (1.31 UScents) a liter hike in the prices of petroleum products had a nominal effect on the Consumer Price Index, which measures the rate of inflation in the country.

He reminded traders not to raise prices according to their whims and fancies.

He warned that the government will take stern action against traders who took advantage of the rise in petroleum prices.

Some traders and businessmen called for lifting the prices of various goods after the price hike of petrol and petroleum products at the end of last month.

"The government will monitor the prices of food and services, especially those affecting public interests, and if there are unreasonable increases, the Cabinet will decide on what measures to take," Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak said last week.

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