The announcement by Government of E10 mandatory blending of anhydrous ethanol and unleaded petrol is a move in the right direction as we strive for the use of locally produced products. As the policy position taken early this year rolls out evenly, starting with E5 mandatory blending, the local oil industry has embraced this in their operations and the product has been warmly welcomed on the market.
What this essentially means is that all fuel that is consumed in this country will have a local component derived from the 10 percent ethanol that is produced in Chisumbanje.
Naturally this should be taken in the context of reducing the oil import bill by at least 10 percent and this should be directed to other pressing commitments.
Motorists should conversely also benefit from the resultant outcome albeit at relatively lower differentials; but the price of fuel must surely go down.
Despite the controversies courted by the establishment of the Chisumbanje ethanol plant and the subsequent closure of the facility at some point, there is need to rally behind the noble initiative to promote homegrown solutions to our challenges particularly the import of petroleum products.
Despite the fact that the blended fuel is a vehicle-friendly product, its acceptance on the market has not been a problem at all.
Fears that the fuel was harmful to vehicles were mere pub talk meant to stymie the advancement of alternative sustainable energy sources.
It is now incumbent upon the Government to ensure that more blending facilities are set up countrywide to ensure that the product is readily available at different centres besides Feruka in Mutare and at the National Oil Infrastructure Company of Zimbabwe in Msasa.
An immediate challenge that needs to be addressed is how to get the supplies to the southern parts of the country and such a facility should ideally be set up in Bulawayo.
Private oil companies should also step up and embrace the changes and those with capacity should not hesitate to also venture into the blending of fuel to augment the existing players.
This should be viewed in the national interest and it should override personal interests.
Another positive emerging from the use of blended fuel is that it is friendly to the environment and the reduced vehicle emissions will positively contribute to lessening our carbon footprint.
Globally there is increased awareness over the use of environmentally friendly products and services and our position is no different.
As Chisumbanje has been designated national project status it is anticipated that the outcome will be shared by all nationals beyond the profit motives of individual companies.
We expect that the benefits will be felt throughout the value chain and as production of ethanol increases, we expect the price of fuel to also significantly go down.
It is also anticipated that the local community that had been crying out for jobs will also come to the party and play a meaningful role in the whole production process through creation of jobs and out grower schemes.
Sugar cane production will evidently go up in the Lowveld as we prepare for the E20 mandatory blending promulgation.
There is also a daunting challenge to educate motorists on the use of blended fuel in the era of resistance to change.
What is imperative is to demystify the notion that blended fuel is different and is just as good as unleaded fuel and lay it bare that there is nothing to fear.
The fact that some motorists have for some time now been using E85 - although the vehicles need to be fitted with conversion kits - is testimony that the product really works and what is required is a positive mindset to adapt.
Let us all embrace the initiatives that are unfolding and focus on the positive outcomes instead of dwelling on the negatives that will derail our progress.