Industry "unhappy" with EU Auto/Oil deal

Oil producers say costs will rocket, car makers insist yet cleaner fuel still needed

The two rival industry sectors affected by the EU Auto/Oil legislation agreed this week - car makers and oil producers - have both expressed discontent with the measures finally agreed after conciliation talks between the European Parliament and Council of Ministers (ENDS Daily 30 June).

The Europia oil industry association claims that the fuel directive will now cost the industry up to four times as much as the original proposal, while the car makers' group Acea says the technology still does not exist to reach the 2005 emissions standards and has reiterated its call for fuel with less sulphur than prescribed by the new law.

The fact that the Auto/Oil legislation - which aims to cut vehicle exhaust pollution - has been finalised means that Acea can now resume negotiations with the European Commission on a voluntary offer to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from new cars. Talks had been suspended pending the Auto/Oil outcome (ENDS Daily 3 June 1998).

Acea spokesperson Jan Baszak told ENDS Daily that the industry's offer to achieve an average carbon dioxide emissions from new cars of 140g per kilometre by 2008 would remain conditional on the wide availability of fuels with just 30 parts per million (ppm) sulphur in the next decade. Under the Auto/Oil fuel quality directive, sulphur in both diesel and petrol will be limited to 50ppm by 2005.

Reflecting continued tension between the two industries over the issue, Michel Flohic of Europia criticised Acea's continued call for very low sulphur fuels as a condition of achieving ambitious emissions cuts. "The politicians have made their decision," he told ENDS Daily; "sulphur levels have been fixed."

The oil industry is also unhappy that the Parliament succeeded in making 2005 standards mandatory, rather than waiting for the results of further research under the Auto/Oil II programme as originally planned by the Commission (ENDS Daily 24 October 1997). Mr Flohic said the whole point of the Auto/Oil scheme was to bring different industry sectors together to conduct research before making a policy decision, and that this principle had not been followed.

A question mark now hovers over Auto/Oil II, since mandatory standards have been set. However, a Commission official said there was "still an important role for Auto/Oil II to play" as benzene and oxygen limits for petrol, and octane and density standards for diesel still have to be set for 2005.

Meanwhile, MEPs who participated in the Auto/Oil negotiations are delighted that mandatory 2005 limits have been agreed. "We have changed the scope of Auto/Oil II totally," said German Socialist MEP Bernd Lange.

Follow Up:
European Parliament, tel: +32 2 284 2111; Acea, tel: +32 2 732 5550; Europia, tel: +32 2 226 1911.

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