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Time of the essence in diesel debate

Belinda Vernon National Transport Spokesperson

24 June 2001

Time of the essence in diesel debate

The opportunity to introduce low-sulphur diesel for the large Auckland market is one not to be missed, National's Transport spokesperson Belinda Vernon said today.

"The New Zealand Refining Company (NZRC) says that diesel sulphur levels can be reduced almost immediately for Auckland by using spare capacity at the refinery with no impact on the rest of the country. It is an opportunity that should be grabbed.

"The only thing holding back progress on this issue is the agreement of Mobil. Mobil is the only one of four major oil companies holding out.

"It appears Mobil's main objection is that levels should be reduced across the country as a whole. But logistically this is not feasible.

"The refinery can't reduce the sulphur levels for the whole country within its current capacity. Major development is needed at the refinery before this can happen. That will require both significant capital expenditure and time before it happens.

"It is hard to justify delaying the early introduction of low-sulphur diesel to New Zealand's largest market. If Auckland's diesel sulphur levels can be cut by 50% without adversely affecting the rest of the country there seems no reason for not getting on with the job.

"No one disputes that the rest of the country should enjoy reduced levels of sulphur diesel. But arguing that Auckland should wait for capacity for the rest of the country is classic fiddling while Rome burns.

"This must not become an Auckland versus the rest of the country issue. It is common sense to introduce immediate change for the largest market. It is shortsighted to suggest that nothing should happen unless it can be done simultaneously around the country.

"New Zealanders are now much more aware of how out of step New Zealand is in levels of sulphur in diesel. There is an urgent need to address this issue. This includes the Government ensuring its review of petroleum products specifications keeps to schedule and reports on time," Belinda Vernon said.

Ends

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