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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

22 July 2004

Cleaner fuels: cleaner air and a healthier Australia

The Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, today announced two new tough fuel standards that will make Australian transport fuels among the cleanest in the world.

Sulfur in premium unleaded petrol will be limited to 50ppm from 1 January 2008, down from 150ppm now. Sulfur in diesel currently 500ppm, will be cut to 50ppm on 1 January 2006 and capped at 10ppm from 1 January 2009.

"These reductions are among the final steps of the Government's strategy to dramatically reduce urban air pollution," Senator Campbell said.

"Lower sulfur will mean much better air quality in Australia's cities and towns and help the two million asthmatics and countless other Australians who suffer from breathing problems.

"By 2020, cleaner fuel initiatives taken by this Government will have saved $3.4 billion in hospital and medical costs.

"These reductions will have an immediate impact on particle emissions from the existing vehicle fleet and, just as importantly, will hasten the introduction of the next generation of cleaner vehicle engines and emission controls.

"Pollution from particulate matter will be immediately reduced by five per cent nationally with the introduction of 10ppm diesel. Reductions will increase as new vehicle technologies come on stream, designed to run on this virtually sulfur free diesel.

"Access to the latest technology will assist Australia's vehicle manufacturers to remain internationally competitive and open the Australian market to the newest vehicles from overseas.

"This decision builds on the Howard Government's achievements in mandating cleaner fuels, which include the establishment of the first national fuel standards under the Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000 and the banning of leaded petrol from January 2002.

"By announcing the new standards with a long lead-time, the Government is providing certainty to the Australian petroleum refining and motor vehicle industries in their future investment strategies.

"In May last year, the Government announced incentives to help refiners and importers offset the increased cost of producing cleaner fuels and making lower sulfur fuel available more quickly. The incentives will be provided for a two-year period prior to commencement of the fuel standards."

The standards have been recommended by the Fuel Standards Consultative Committee, which comprises representatives of consumers, industry, environment and state governments.

Note: As previously announced, regular unleaded petrol will contain maximum 150ppm sulfur from 1 January 2005, down from the current 500ppm maximum mandated since 1 January 2002.

Estimated reduction in emissions of major pollutants under National Fuel Quality Standards, 2000 - 2010 - 2020

Graph showing the estimated reduction in emissions of major pollutants over a 20 year period

Note: The Department of the Environment and Heritage calculates that the reductions between 2002 and 2020 will result in 360,000 tonnes of sulfur being taken from the atmosphere. This would fill 160 Olympic size swimming pools.

Commonwealth of Australia