Tag Archive | "petrol"

A Dearth Of Diesel

With the admittedly slow but inevitable rise of the electric car and the growing confidence in hydrogen technology it seems a bit strange that drivers would be worried about the supply of diesel in the long term. Bizarre though it may seem, there is some truth in the fact that the supply of diesel could possibly – if remotely – be put in jeopardy by events yet to come.

This is why. Ships. That’s right, just when you thought you were safe on dry land it appears the shipping industry is going to have to meet burgeoning new EU regulations concerning emissions; so it’s not just we motorists who suffer. Their vessels will have to be cleaner in future which means they will no longer be able to burn heavy fuel oil but instead use a form of diesel similar to that which is used in cars.

It gets worse. The economies of India and China are growing apace. The demand for new cars is massive and, as a result, there will increasingly be an upsurge in the use of diesel. The answer should be to make more of it but apparently it isn’t that easy. It seems that when a company builds a refinery they have to decide from the outset what it will produce. When most European refineries were built more than thirty years ago the demand was for good old petrol which easily outsold the murky diesel product of the time.

Then diesel engines became cleaner and more economic. Thus demand rose and in 2006 diesel outsold petrol for the first time and it was then that we all discovered we did not have the capacity to make enough of the stuff. The result is that Europe exports petrol but has to import forty percent of the diesel we need. Most of this comes from Russia, a nation with whom we have a sometimes shaky relationship. Is it any wonder that diesel users are worried.

An interesting side issue of this has come to light. Users of diesel cars castigate government for the additional tax that their chosen fuel carries and believe not unreasonably that there should be price parity. It seems that the government doesn’t want to lower the tax because they believe it would create extra demand and put even more pressure on our diesel stocks. We hate to admit it but they may have a point.

This may be why car makers are building these super-small, super-economical petrol engines and hybrids. This seems to be a trend. Although diesel remains popular with higher mileage drivers because of the economy factor it is likely that petrol engines will soon once again be in the ascendancy. In the meantime it is unlikely we will ever see diesel prices at the pumps come down.

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Fuel For The Future

Ethanol is colourless, volatile, flammable and alcoholic and has various industrial uses except in the Deep South of America where it is a recreational home-made beverage – although you shouldn’t try it at home. It is also considered to be a ‘green’ fuel and is probably in your car now. Regular unleaded petrol has, since 2008, a five percent ethanol content. Premium fuels contain no ethanol.

Later this year a new brew with a higher ethanol content will begin to appear on garage forecourts described as E10. In other words this is unleaded fuel but with a 10% ethanol content. This is because ethanol is, in effect, carbon neutral and is as a result beloved of EU decision-makers.

Some European countries have had this fuel for a while so we’re playing catch-up. It has been legal to sell it here since March but in reality we are unlikely to see any before this Summer. Motorists and motorcyclists aren’t obliged to use it and it will be sold alongside our present selection for the foreseeable future. Garages are not obliged to sell it. So that’s all fine then, but for some drivers who might choose to be greener there could be a snag. Or two.

Ethanol in this concentration is known to degrade and damage components in older cars. This is especially true of classic vehicles. It can affect rubber seals and, because it more readily absorbs water, can attack older fuel pipes and carburettor parts. Even used cars registered before 2000 could be vulnerable and, just to be on the safe side, buyers of new cars could check with their dealer. The Department for Transport reckon that 8.6 million vehicles of all types could be affected. Manufacturers are organising a dedicated E10 website where car owners can get all the facts, so watch out for that.

Obviously this is not unexpected. The messianic zeal with which the EU approaches all things green has already had a profound effect on the motor industry; much of it good, it has to be said. It’s all part of their plan to cut the use of fossil fuels to combat global warming etc.

The downside is that a recent study has shown that E10 is not so economical. The report has shown that cars might do less miles to the gallon and that drivers will find that over a year could spend as much as £80 more at the pumps. This is a bit of an issue. If the EU is so keen on their sustainability targets where is the value in a fuel that we’ll all have to buy more of?

The Germans have had E10 for a couple of years now and are said to be deeply suspicious. Many are choosing not to use it because they are unclear on the wider environmental and social aspects of this concoction. Ethanol is a biofuel made from grain so there’s also concern that taking farmland out of the food production cycle could be detrimental to food prices. We’ll have to see how the car makers approach this launch and whether, given their interest in sustainability and our well-being, the government sell it with a tax break! You wish.

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