Sweet Deal Mirrors Australia's Changing Fuel Policy

SYDNEY, Australia, December 15, 2000 (ENS) - Australia has finally caught up with the rest of the developed world by introducing the country's first mandatory, national fuel quality standards.

And in the southern city of Melbourne, 200,000 commuters have begun using buses powered by pure ethanol produced from sugar cane waste.

Stone

Parliamentary Secretary, Dr. Sharman Stone. (Photo courtesy Environment Australia)
The Fuel Quality Standards Bill passed this week, replaces emissions laws equivalent to the United States standard in 1981.

"We had fallen 20 years behind the rest of the developed world in diesel and petrol quality, refined in Australia or allowed to be imported and sold here," said Dr. Sharman Stone, Parliamentary Secretary to Environment Minister Robert Hill.

"In European countries there are many smaller cars on the roads, which have highly efficient motors driven by the cleaner, better quality fuel," said Stone.

"These smaller cars go further on a liter of fuel and they have less effect on the air quality."

Australia has one of the world's highest rates of asthma per head of population, and pollution in some Australian cities often exceeds the pollution of London, Toronto and other North American cities.

The transport sector is the largest single contributor to Australia's greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for almost 16 percent of the 72.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide pumped into the environment every year.

The new rules will mean higher octane, lower sulfur content fuel. This should help reduce pollution as well as cut greenhouse gas emissions. Australia is struggling to meet international commitments to limit emissions of carbon dioxide and other climate warming gases to eight percent of 1990 levels. Such emissions have actually grown by 16 percent.

The Fuel Quality Standards Bill forms part of the Australian government's A$1 billion (US$540,000) greenhouse plan known as Measures for a Better Environment package.

The new law will introduce tougher penalties to protect consumers from fuel substitution.

"We are very serious about protecting Australians from unclean, impure fuel," said Stone. "People found guilty of supplying fuel that does not meet the new standards, altering fuel or using prohibited additives will face fines of up to A$50,000 [US$27,132]. Corporations face penalties of up to A$500,000 [US$271,324]."

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Ventura Bus Line's fleet now includes vehicles powered by ethanol produced from sugarcane waste. (Photo courtesy Ventura Bus Lines)
The law will also harmonize regulations that used to vary significantly between Australia's states and territories.

"This will lower the cost of doing business for Australian producers who will no longer need to deal with different laws in different jurisdictions - a barrier to cheaper fuel," said Stone.

Sugarcane power

Stone was in the southern city of Melbourne earlier this month to launch a bus service powered by ethanol produced from Australian sugarcane waste.

Ventura Bus Lines ethanol powered bus service transports 200,000 commuters in Melbourne's eastern and southeastern suburbs. They are Australia's first pure ethanol fueled buses, and are expected to have a positive effect on rural sugar belt communities that produce 110 million liters of ethanol annually.

When ignited in the purpose built Scania engines, greenhouse emissions from ethanol are substantially less than from petrol or diesel. In addition, ethanol, unlike fossil fuels, is totally renewable.

Ethanol fuel is made from molasses, a byproduct of sugar milling, and is used extensively in Europe to fuel large vehicles.

"With the average bus consuming 60,000 liters of fuel a year, these new services are going a long way toward reducing pollution and greenhouse emissions in the city and giving Australian farmers a boost as well," said Stone.