Auto-Oil gets snarled up in amendments

The cost of measures to limit vehicle pollution is set to soar

By David Fowler

European Parliament amendments to the European Commission’s Auto-Oil proposals for limiting vehicle pollution will more than double the cost involved without significantly improving air quality, according to the oil industry.

Uncertainty over the final proposals is threatening the industry’s ability to invest sufficiently in refineries in time for the year 2000 deadline and is undermining the partnership approach of the proposals.

The Auto-Oil proposals were drawn up by a tripartite process, involving the oil and car industries working with the commission, in an effort to optimise benefits from new-vehicle emission legislation at least cost.

But when the proposals eventually adopted by the commission came before the European Parliament in April, the Parliament passed 64 amendments instigated by the parliamentary environment committee.

Malcolm Watson, UK Petroleum Industry Association technical officer, said that, if accepted, the amendments would increase the cost to the industry of implementation from 11.4bn ecu (£8.1bn) to more than 60bn ecu (£42.9), of which two-thirds would be up-front investment.

But the effects would be small: emissions of nitrogen oxides and particles in London would be reduced by a further two percentage points on top of the 75% cut that the original proposals would achieve.

The proposals will be considered by the Council of EU Ministers in June.