Spain bids to speed leaded petrol phase-out

Government offers financial incentive for scrapping cars that cannot run on unleaded fuel

Spanish owners of petrol-driven cars that require leaded fuel are to receive a euros 721 (SPta120,000) tax reduction when they purchase a new vehicle from 1 January. Announced on Monday by the country's environment and science and technology ministries, the initiative is designed to speed up the phase-out of leaded petrol with just over one year to run to an EU legal deadline.

Under the 1998 EU fuel quality directive most member states were required to end general use of leaded petrol by 1 January this year (ENDS Daily 30 June 1998). Along with Greece and Italy, Spain won a two year derogation, arguing that it still had 4m cars incapable of using unleaded petrol and therefore could not possibly make the switchover by 2000 (ENDS Daily 20 December 1999).

The government now appears not too confident of meeting its 1 January 2002 deadline, since the tax incentive package is set to run for three years. According to recent estimates, between 1.5m and 2m Spanish vehicles are still incapable of running on unleaded petrol.

Spanish motor vehicle manufacturers' association Anfac is unimpressed, describing the government's initiative as "too little, too late". The industry had been pressing for action of this sort since the beginning of the year, a spokesperson said. Tax credits should also have been offered for purchasing second-hand vehicles, because people still running older, leaded-petrol-only cars were "precisely those who cannot afford to buy a new car," it added.

Environmental group Ecologists in Action is more critical still. The NGO said the tax incentive was "a flagrant subsidy to the motor industry which discriminates against non-motorists".

Follow Up:
Spanish environment ministry, tel: +34 91 597 6030; Anfac, tel: +34 91 343 1340.

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