Kerosene, like Vicks, is an essential component of the Belizean universe. In the past, kerosene was widely used to light kerosene lamps, keep kerosene stoves burning, and fuel kerosene refrigerators. Kerosene still finds wide use in Belize. It is used at social gatherings, to light barbecues; in the fields, to start the burning of wood piles; and in some rural areas where kerosene stoves are still very much the stove of choice.

Amandala today learnt that kerosene's use has expanded to buses, and other heavy equipment. Diesel is the prime fuel of heavy industry and the cost at this time is pretty steep, but given the constant hike in fuel costs, it appears that heavy equipment operators are mixing kerosene with diesel to cut operational costs.

Diesel stands at a whopping $10.01 per gallon, while kerosene is a little over half that price, with consumers paying $5.89 per gallon. The increased demand for kerosene has resulted in a shortage since Tuesday at 3 p.m., however, and so consumers are forced to satisfy all their fuel needs with diesel.

Kerosene is not sold at all fuel stations, but Amandala was able to locate a couple Puma outlets on New Road and on Cemetery Road that sell it. We spoke to Honorio Coc, the supervisor at the Puma gas station on Cemetery Road.

He confirmed the shortage of kerosene, and claimed it was not Puma's fault. According to Coc, an order was sent to Puma's fuel providers, and they dropped the ball. Coc said he really doesn't know what caused the scarcity in other areas.

Coc further revealed that at this time there is no indication when kerosene will become available. He said that bus operators have started to panic, and have been making frequent checks to see if the order has arrived. "They just have to understand," he said, when Amandala asked how bus operators reacted to the shortage.

For now, Puma's Cemetery Road gas station, which ordered more than a thousand gallons of kerosene, has exhausted its supply.

Amandala contacted Ray Cadle, a bus conductor for over 20 years at Jex's Bus Company which operates between Crooked Tree and Belize City. He confirmed that kerosene can be used in buses only if it is mixed with diesel, but expressed that not many bus operators knew this.

According to him, twice per month his company makes a purchase of kerosene mixed with diesel. "It keeps the [bus] injectors clean and reduces the cost of maintenance in the longer run," he said.

When Amandala asked if it also serves to cut operational costs, he disagreed. "It doesn't matter if fuel prices go up or down, the bus fares remain the same, so it doesn't have any impact," he told us.

We approached other bus owners at Pound Yard and on Amara Avenue to get their comments, but they declined and denied mixing diesel with kerosene.