A stricter standard for the permitted sulfur content of diesel oil will come into effect next month as part of a strategy to tackle air pollution problems involving the sale and use of illegal diesel oil, according to the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) yesterday.
Beginning on Jan. 1, the permitted sulfur content of diesel oil set by the EPA will be significantly decreased from the current 350ppm to 50ppm. Environmental officials said that the measure was designed to reduce air pollutants from diesel-powered vehicles. Violators would be fined up to NT$75,000.
According to the EPA, diesel oil products provided by the nation's two major oil suppliers, Chinese Petroleum and Formosa Petrochemical, meet environmental standards. Illegally sold diesel oil tends to have a significantly higher sulfur content.
EPA officials said that diesel-powered land vehicles in Taiwan consume about 4 million kiloliters of the fuel annually. About one-tenth of this is actually fishing boat fuel oil, of which the sulfur content is about 5,000ppm.
Fishermen are partly subsidized by the government when they purchase fuel for their boats. In 2002, the government spent about NT$3.3 billion (US$102.2 million) on subsidies for fishermen to purchase 1.75 million kiloliters of diesel. About 400,000 kiloliters was illegally sold to drivers of vehicles on land at lower prices. At gas stations, diesel is sold for around NT$17. Fishing-boat diesel is sold for NT$12 or NT$13.
"This causes terrible air pollution problems. Trucks using fishing boat diesel emit about 100 times more pollutants than those using legal diesel," said Wu Sheng-jong (吳盛忠), deputy director general of the EPA's Bureau of Air Quality Protection and Noise Control.
In addition to local air pollution, the emissions might further damage the ozone layer and contribute to global warming.
Wu said the illegal reselling of fishing boat diesel was common in the south, where gravel taken illegally from riverbeds is transported with trucks fueled by the fishing-boat oil.
Wu said that only a small proportion of the illegal diesel comes from clandestine producers. According to the Bureau of Energy, 265,000 kiloliters of diesel oil was produced illegally in 2001.
Wu said that the EPA would also soon tackle problems invol-ving the use of gasoline that does not meet legal standards. Data from the Bureau of Energy shows that about 105,000 kiloliters of sub-standard gasoline was sold in 2001.
"Currently, laws only punish producers and sellers of sub-standard gasoline. Next year, it will be possible to fine users up to NT$30,000," Wu said.
The proposal will be discussed at several public hearings early next year, Wu said.