Ben Bradshaw, UK Minister for Local Environment Quality, has published consultation proposals to control escaping fumes from service stations.
The fumes, when combined with nitrous oxide, form a key ingredient of summer smog in cities in calm sunny weather. The proposal is for the fumes to be collected in petrol stations and recycled as fuel.
Defra, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, is seeking views on whether large service stations in the UK should fit equipment - known as Petrol Vapour Recovery stage II controls - to control the fumes.
The measures being proposed will help capture 16,000 tonnes of volatile organic compounds a year from 2010 - over half of the current emissions from petrol stations.
Ben Bradshaw said that the measures would help to improve the quality of the air by limiting the chemical fumes can lead to smog, health problems and damage to trees, vegetation and crops.
"Petrol fumes from service stations contribute to air pollution and lead to smog in warm weather. Fitting the new equipment that can capture these fumes will help to cut risks to public health and the environment."
"We propose limiting the measure to larger service stations to protect the viability of small stations which are often located in rural areas. These rural service stations provide additional services to rural communities, such as shops and Post Offices."
The proposals do not affect diesel fuel.
Emissions from service stations contribute approximately 3% of total UK VOC emissions. Emissions from the fuel station sector are expected to decline to around 30 kilotonnes by 2010 due to the projected trend in UK fuel sales.
The consultation paper and accompanying Regulatory Impact Assessment are available from the Defra website (current consultations list) at: www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/current.htm