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Premier backs down on NSW ethanol mandate

NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell has shied away from his commitment to replace standard unleaded petrol with ethanol mixed fuel, a major backdown which was influenced by boating industry concerns about public safety issues and possible damage to boats and engines.

Mainstream media last week stepped up criticism over the Government’s ethanol mandate, which was due to be enforced on July 1, after it was found that up to 750,000 NSW motorists would be paying more at the bowser if the plan went ahead.
 
Boat users and the boating industry were set to be the amongst the biggest losers if the ethanol mandate went through. Ethanol, according to experts, is potentially damaging to boats, outboards, fuel lines and fuel tanks. An exemption was made for marinas to sell regular unleaded, but little acknowledgemnt was given to the vast majotity of trailer boat users who buy petrol from roadside service stations. If the mandate went ahead, boaties, fishermen, and the 750,000 motorists with incompatible cars, would have been forced to fill their engines with costly premium unleaded.
 
“Motorists already pay enough for petrol and I am not going to force people into buying more expensive premium petrol to run their cars,” Mr O’Farrell said.
 
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the NSW Government would introduce legislation to overturn the need for a ban on standard unleaded fuel, However, a plan for 6 per cent of all fuel to be ethanol-based would remain.
 
An industry insider said the 6 per cent ethanol mandate would still make it difficult for NSW boaties to find service stations that sold standard unleaded fuel.
 
“Petrol stations are only built to deliver a fixed number of fuel types (tanks and pumps) so having regular AND E10 is almost impossible. For distribution reasons – E10 will be omnipresent in whole regions,” the industry insider said.
 
Boating Industry Association (BIA) NSW GM Roy Privett said there were two negatives for our industry regarding ethanol.
 
“First and foremost is the safety issue and increased potential of breakdown where boaters have not followed the advice to avoid using ethanol and bio-diesel blends,” said Privett.
 
“Secondly, the higher cost of premium is another added cost impact for boating activities.”
 
Australian Marine Engine Council (AMEC) spokesman David Heyes today told Fishing World that the outboard industry body which represents BRP, Suzuki and Honda had been encouraging other marine organisations to lobby government on E10 issues.  
 
“It was our initiative that put the Queensland Government and Marine Queensland together. What emerged was a withdrawal of a government flyer encouraging E10 in boats and a statement from the government warning of the risks to boating.” said Heyes.
 
NSW Shooters and Fishers Party MLC Robert Brown, who had opposed the ethanol mandate, said he welcomed the announcement that the Premier had reversed his earlier decision to make the use of E10 fuels virtually mandatory in small engines.
 
“It is good to see that the Premier is listening to those affected by policies such as this. The ban on ordinary ULP would have been disastrous for many rec fishers that own and use outboards,” Mr Brown said.
 
“The policy would also have impacted upon hundreds of thousands of ordinary motorists with older vehicles, and who by definition are the ones who could least afford to pay for more expensive premium  fuels.”

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