Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2002-09-25-Speech-3-186"

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"Mr President, my report concerns the improvement of fuel quality. Everyone will surely recall the directive we drafted in the codecision procedure in 1998, which established quality requirements for diesel fuel and petrol for the first time in the European Union and which has had a decisive part to play in reducing emissions of traffic exhaust. The simultaneous improvements made with regard to engine technology and fuel have inevitably had a part to play in this. This time we are faced with the challenge of having to reduce the sulphur content of fuel to very nearly zero for both diesel fuel and normal petrol. Sulphur has proven to be a more strategic component in fuels than was earlier supposed. Petrol or diesel which contains sulphur produces noticeably far more exhaust emissions, and we now face a very specific challenge: the automotive industry and the manufacturers of catalytic converters should design more advanced engines and develop purification technology so that exhaust emissions really can be reduced to a very small fraction of what they were as recently as the early 1990s. This will not be possible unless we remove the sulphur from diesel and petrol. The proposal now before us aims at the complete removal of sulphur from these fuels by 2009. This is the most crucial decision contained in this report, and represents a compromise between the Commission, the Council and Parliament. If you recall, ladies and gentlemen, the Commission originally proposed that all fuels should be absolutely sulphur-free by 2011. Afterwards, Parliament responded by stating that there was every justification for bringing forward this reform so that it was fully implemented in 2008, and the Council in its common position in fact came very close to the opinion of Parliament. The year 2009 is now our target year, and I think Parliament should accept this date, even though I might perhaps say in this connection that I doubt whether the market will get round to implementing this reform faster than us legislators. Several Member States have realised that a very effective way to purify fuel is to offer small tax concessions in relation to normal fuel, and this practice, which originated in Scandinavia, in Sweden and Finland, has now spread to very many Member States. I would like to make special mention of the United Kingdom, which has actively adopted this tax concession tool and derived good results from it. This proposal is also very much based on the notion that the quality of fuels used in machinery must be improved substantially: the more success we have had in reducing road traffic exhaust emissions through technical improvements, the more attention we have been paying to machinery. Machinery includes tractors and any kind of small but very often extremely noisy machines that are used, for example, in parks to blow leaves. Obviously, all machinery used in the construction sector is included. We could actually say that the biggest controversy still remaining concerns these types of machines and the fuel they use. I can assure you all that the latest research on this subject shows that removing the sulphur from fuels used in machinery as well really is worthwhile economically and in terms of the environment and health. Here I want to refer quite specifically to agricultural producers in Britain, who are frightened by this proposal, thinking it will increase their costs substantially. I can assure you in Britain and elsewhere in Europe and the world generally tractor drivers are exposed to abnormally high levels of toxicity when they sit in their cab and the reason is precisely the poor quality of the fuel being used. With this proposal we are working on the assumption that by 2009 the fuel used in machinery will also be sulphur-free. This is not as drastic as, for example, British agricultural producers have made it look, as already now in half the Member States the same diesel fuel is used as that in vehicles on the highway. It is now a question of extending this requirement throughout the whole of the European Union. The report proposes a two-stage approach. Firstly the sulphur content of fuels used in machinery would be reduced to 350 mg per kilogram and then by 2009 the sulphur content would be eliminated totally. This is something that hopefully Parliament will hold to, as, after tomorrow’s vote, I am sure we will very quickly be having talks with the Commission and the Council about where a suitable compromise between Parliament and the Council might lie. I believe we have a good chance of obtaining clear and binding scheduled targets with regard to this issue. Indeed, we are taking into consideration here the fact that at this very moment the Commission is drafting a proposal with regard to fuels used in machinery. One of the most interesting of all the issues in this report, from the point of view of the various interest groups, has been that concerning the change in the volatility limit for petrol. Mention is also made of vapour pressure. These are very technical matters. However, the question here is that biofuel producers wanted us to alter the vapour pressure of petrol in this proposal so that the use of a biofuel, especially bioethanol, might rapidly increase in the European Union. In my position as rapporteur, I have tried to look into this responsibly and I have acquired as much useful information on the subject as has been available. In my opinion, the compromise we now have in this report by the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Policy is a fairly optimum one. It grants that if the use of bioethanol increases in the European Union this matter of fuel quality can be examined as a result. That examination would take place in 2005. However, as rapporteur, I have not considered it possible that we could, with any degree of responsibility, alter this property of the fuel in the report at this stage, as certain doubts remain in connection with this about not only exhaust emissions but also the possible adverse effects of these biofuel blends on vehicles and engines. I also wish to draw special attention to the fact that the amendment that alludes to this matter states in the justification section that this process should not be considered to have any adverse effect on vehicles. However, vehicle manufacturers have got in touch with me and said that this is not the case. They think that altering the vapour pressure might cause problems for engines. The proposal by the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Policy that we should leave discussion of this issue until the next review of the directive in 2005 is therefore, I believe, a good compromise. I will now end my speech and say that we also need sulphur-free fuels because we must be able to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from cars. Sulphur-free fuel is absolutely vital for this purpose. For that reason we really must adopt this report tomorrow, hopefully with the largest possible majority."@en1

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