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Oil firms duck clean air deadline

delhi Updated: Jan 11, 2010 00:38 IST

It’s official. The country is all set to miss the April 1, 2010 deadline set by the Supreme Court to introduce higher quality auto fuels conforming to the Euro III compliance norms that seek to reduce environmentally harmful emissions.

Oil refiners are not ready to supply green fuels all across the country, and want a three or six month extension of the deadline to make the right kind of petrol and diesel needed to run upgraded automobiles. Auto makers busy making their greener models say their vehicles may suffer damage if they do not run on fuels of matching standards.

The higher grade fuels –Euro III and Euro IV compliant--are environment-friendly fuels with lower emission levels because they emit less of pollutants such as sulphur and benzene. The permissible levels of the pollutants determine the fuel grade. While 14 cities including Delhi and leading metros are ready to join the even greener Euro IV norms by April, the rest of the country is not ready even for Euro III because of a shortage of matching fuels.

Auto firms say the delay in introduction of the better quality fuels may result in disruption of production in the next fiscal year.

“It is a matter of concern that there is some ambiguity on whether the right quality of fuel will be available by April 1,” said Dr Pawan Goenka, president, Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM).

“Already we are scaling down production of Euro II vehicles and ramping up Euro IV cars. If we are told in March, it will be too late for us to do anything.”

A high-level committee of directors (COD) from oil companies led by state-controlled Indian Oil Corp, constituted to look into supply of auto fuels in line with the new policy, has proposed a deferment of the deadline by three to six months in the implementation plan for the Euro III petrol and diesel. The new dates proposed are July, 1 and October 1, 2010.

An extension of the deadline, could hurt auto makers. For instance, Market leader Maruti Suzuki has already started manufacturing Euro III and Euro IV compliant vehicles and says it cannot go back on its production schedule at this juncture.

“We are ready with the cars but poor quality of fuel in some areas of the country like the North East, may lead to damage to the upgraded vehicles," said I V Rao, managing executive officer research and development, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd.

"There is always a lead time between production and supply of vehicles and we are not in a position to re-schedule it now.”

A National Auto Fuel Policy was enacted in 2003 following the Supreme Court order of 1998 which set the norms for clean fuels and matching automobiles.

Oil companies led by Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) have been asked by the petroleum ministry to file an affidavit in the Supreme Court by January 31 for states where deferment of the introduction of BS III (Bharat Stage III) petrol and diesel, corresponding to Euro III norms, has been sought.