21 – 27 February 2001

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Better quality diesel hits Malta's roads

By Nadine Brincat

Malta's motorists are now being offered lower sulphur diesel, as well as petrol with lower amounts of lead to run their cars, in a bid to make the environment cleaner and healthier, the economic services minister said yesterday.
Professor Josef Bonnici, who was speaking at a joint press conference with Enemalta, said the measures were a demonstration of the government's commitment towards a better, safer environment.
He described the change in diesel fuel as significant and badly needed, bearing in mind that vehicle density on the roads has increased considerably over the past 10 years.
"Last year a total of 86,129 metric tonnes of diesel were consumed, compared to 56,934 metric tonnes, in 1991, which constitutes an increase of over 51% in a span of 10 years," the minister said.
Prof. Bonnici explained that diesel previously had a 0.5 per cent sulphur content, but, as of this week, this should have decreased by an average of 0.55 per cent.
"This will reduce the diesel burnt in engines and decrease pollution levels, making for superior quality fuel, which is close to EU standards," the minister said.
Prof. Bonnici pointed out that this was the second time the corporation was importing lower sulphur diesel, since last September.
He said that although the lower sulphur diesel is more expensive, Enemalta has agreed to absorb the costs, as per the statement in November's budget.
The minister said that petrol consumption has increased by 11 per cent during the past 10 years, while the importation of leaded petrol decreased by 28 per cent during the same period, from 62,036 metric tonnes in 1991 to 44,550 metric tonnes, last year.
During the same span of time, the minister continued, unleaded petrol importation increased by 1,271 per cent, from 1,936 metric tonnes in 1991, to 26,549 metric tonnes in 1991.
The minister viewed the shift from leaded to unleaded fuel consumption, as a good sign. In October 2000, he said, the content of lead in petrol went down from 0.4 grams per litre to 0.15 grams per litre, signalling a decrease of 63 per cent.
Prof. Bonnici said that Enemalta is searching for alternatives to sulphur, but the corporation recognised that some cars cannot do without it.
"The corporation is conducting an exercise to identify alternative products which can be used by older cars, which were made for petrol. But eventually all leaded petrol will be phased out," he said.
The lower sulphur diesel was brought to the island following a contract agreed with Libya during a meeting last August.
Meanwhile, the economic services ministry is currently examining whether to amend the pricing structure of leaded and unleaded petrol.
"VRT tests will focus more on the issue of emissions as was stated prior to their introduction," Prof. Bonnici said.

The Business Times, Network House, Vjal ir-Rihan San Gwann SGN 07
Tel: (356) 382741-3, 382745-6 | Fax: (356) 385075 | e-mail: editorial@networkpublications.com.mt