Wheels (Australia) - - Head To Head -

THE POOR qual­ity of Aus­tralian fuel has been a po­lit­i­cal hot po­tato for years, while the strug­gle to nail down a new emis­sions stan­dard is be­com­ing a na­tional em­bar­rass­ment.

Im­prov­ing emis­sions means cut­ting fuel con­sump­tion and im­prov­ing health, but a key com­po­nent in that process is im­prov­ing the qual­ity of pe­tro­leum.

With tough Euro 6 emis­sions stan­dards in place in Europe and be­ing de­bated for Aus­tralia, the need is be­com­ing ur­gent for a low 10 parts per mil­lion (ppm) sul­phur fuel to be­come avail­able on the fore­court. Cur­rently, reg­u­lar un­leaded is 150ppm and pre­mium 50ppm.

Un­less that cut hap­pens, Aus­tralians may miss out on the lat­est high-qual­ity en­gines from some man­u­fac­tur­ers be­cause of poor fuel qual­ity.

The car com­pa­nies are all for bet­ter fuel, but the oil re­fin­ing in­dus­try isn’t so happy, claim­ing it could en­dan­ger the fu­ture of some of Aus­tralia’s four re­main­ing re­finer­ies and be hideously ex­pen­sive to up­grade the rest.

Less re­fin­ing ca­pac­ity means Aus­tralia’s al­ready shaky fuel se­cu­rity is put at risk in a time of cri­sis such as a mil­i­tary con­flict.

It’s a po­tent ar­gu­ment that has been enough to keep the lid on the is­sue. And for that the in­dus­try’s lobby group, the AIP, can take a lot of the credit.

In the CV of cur­rent CEO Paul Bar­rett, you can see why it has gained a sym­pa­thetic ear in the halls of power. Smart and well-con­nected, he worked in the depart­ment of Prime Min­is­ter and Cab­i­net be­fore join­ing the AIP.

Mind you, even the AIP is now sig­nalling its ac­cep­tance that some­thing needs to be done, although its time­frames for im­prove­ment don’t go as far or as quickly as the au­to­mo­tive in­dus­try would like.

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