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Govt. moves on biofuel, but are we ready?

Tuesday 30th August 2005

Govt. moves on biofuel, but are we ready?

The Government’s announcement that sales targets are to be set for biofuels (ethanol and biodiesel) comes with a warning from the Motor Industry Association, which believes that the makeup of the New Zealand vehicle fleet needs to be a critical factor in any biofuel decision.

“It’s pleasing that after years of discussion the Government is taking a positive step on biofuel, but we caution the oil companies in their implementation of this initiative that they need to consider the local vehicle fleet,” said Perry Kerr, CEO of the Motor Industry Association. “The New Zealand vehicle fleet very much reflects the Japanese domestic fleet of ten years ago, and it wasn’t until June 2003 that the Japanese Government permitted an ethanol mix in local fuel, and then only to a maximum of 3%.”

The reason the Japanese Government took the stance it did was because there was no assurance that the fuel systems on older-model Japanese cars were compatible with an ethanol blend. “Those older-model cars, plus even older ones, are now here, so we need to be doubly cautious,” said Mr. Kerr.

Given the commitments which are now in place by new vehicle franchise holders to protect the owners of cars imported and sold by third parties, and bearing in mind the foregoing, the new vehicle industry would not be supportive of any ethanol / petrol mix higher than 3%.

In terms of biodiesel, like with ethanol, the Japanese domestic vehicle market has had no experience with this type of blended fuel in general use. “We have only recently sent to the Japanese Automobile Manufacturers Association a copy of the New Zealand biodiesel standard. We may therefore get a similar response to that for ethanol, that is that the Japanese vehicle manufacturers do not recommend that a biodiesel blend is used in used Japanese imports in New Zealand” Mr Kerr added.

In conclusion, Mr Kerr underlined the aging of our vehicle fleet. “Biofuels will have a small influence, but if the Government was really serious about reducing emissions they could make a lot more progress much more quickly by preventing old, worn out, obsolete-technology vehicles from crossing our wharves”.

ENDS

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