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90-octane gas faces limited future

2009. 29 July

( Shanghai has started to gradually phase out 90-octane gasoline, which causes more pollution due to a higher sulfur content.

The move was aimed at easing air pollution and creating a cleaner 2010 World Expo, officials from the Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau
told a news briefing yesterday.

A bilingual Environmental Report for the 2010 Shanghai World Expo was also released at the briefing to highlight city practices and achievements in environmental protection since 2000 and green technology to be used in the Expo zone.

The United Nations Environment Program is doing an independent evaluation on city authorities' performance on environmental protection for Expo and these results will be made public soon.

Officials yesterday did not say when 90-octane gasoline would vanish from the city market.

However, they said gasoline for low-performance engines would be unavailable by the time the Expo starts next May.

Shanghai has ordered all buses and taxis running in the city center to meet National III emission standards or higher before the Expo and all new cars to meet National IV standards, equivalent to the second highest emission standards in Europe, from November 1.

"The quality of gasoline used in vehicles should also be upgraded to help cut pollution," said Zhang Quan, director of the environmental bureau.

"The phasing out of 90-octane gasoline will be carried out in stages," Zhang said.

Some motorists have already complained that they cannot find 90-octane pumps easily in the city.

The 90-octane gasoline is available at about 100 pump stations out of the city's total of more than 800, according to oil company officials.

Cabbies riled

The product has a lower profit margin than better-quality fuel.

A shift to the dearer 93-octane gasoline would translate into an 8 percent rise in fuel spending for drivers under current market prices. At city pumps, the ceiling price for 90-octane is 5.35 yuan (78 US cents) a liter, against 5.81 yuan for 93-octane.

City cabbies are far from amused.

"Taxi drivers spend on average 250 yuan a day on petrol ... it will cost them much more if they have to refill with 93-octane," said Guan Lu from Dazhong Taxi, the leading taxi firm in Shanghai. "We hope the government offers subsidies to taxi companies or drivers."

Sheng Bing, another taxi driver from the company, said he planned to park his cab by restaurants or hotels, instead of driving around looking for customers, to save fuel when 90-octane was no longer available.

Local government departments responsible for relevant subsidies contacted by Shanghai Daily yesterday would not comment on the gasoline issue.

Shanghai has invested 225 billion yuan on environmental projects in the past nine years.

"The fourth round of the Three-Year Environmental Protection Action Plan this year has 260 projects with the major focus on the Expo," Zhang said.

"We will adopt technology like green vehicles, solar power and green lighting in the Expo zone.

"The neighboring provinces of Zhejiang and Jiangsu will work closely with us during the event to control pollution."