Petrol (Lead Content)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th April 1976.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Trevor Skeet Mr Trevor Skeet , Bedford 12:00 am, 5th April 1976

Because there must be efficiency in the performance of the internal combustion engine, otherwise one would have to redesign the internal combustion engine so that it would be able to work at a very much lower figure.

I come to the question I was asked specifically. The proposed Directives relate to regular grades only. Four-star petrol in Germany would remain at 0·40 grammes per litre, and the European Parliament has made the recommendation that the figure of 1·15, which is the existing requirement, should be deleted.

Another point which should be borne in mind for Germany is that, if refiners cannot supply according to the right specification, they pay a tax of l·8p per gallon, and, as the hon. Member well knows, the requirement to reach 0·15 grammes per litre in Germany was introduced in January of this year. As there were considerable stocks available, I do not think that anyone in Germany would have felt the impact and the Germans would not have been acquainted with the problem.

Another point which is rather significant is that the cost to the West German oil industry has totalled £200 million, and for one company alone it has been £35 million. It is well known that in the West German market fuel oil is already in surplus. As more oil must be imported and the oil has to be processed, the result of this is that it has more fuel oil than can be utilised on the internal market and its refinery balance is entirely upset.

I refer to the Petroleum Times of 19th March 1976, which said that if the aromatics were increased considerably this would result in a tendency towards longer engine warm-up times, poorer short-trip economy for the motorist, and increased deposit formation. Sensitivity also increases, And the high-severity reforming step involved in increased aromatics will require more naphtha feedstock. Since there is a naphtha deficiency currently in Europe, increasing reformer severity could limit the availability of naphtha and aromatics for the petrochemical industry. To sum up, therefore, there is not merely a matter of increased cost and inconvenience to the motorist.

Many people are claiming naphtha partly for the purpose we are discussing tonight but also, in the chemical industry, for feedstock. The price of naphtha will rise even further, and on the petrochemical front there will be increases in prices. The cost of reducing lead content from 0·64 to 0·40 grammes per litre, which is the figure I have in view, would cost between £16 million and £35 million. The additional crude oil requirement on the basis of the 1975 market could be 2·9 million tonnes to 5·3 million tonnes out of a toal of 80 million tonnes. It is well known that, working on a petrol consumption of 18 million tonnes and a load level of 0·50 grammes per litre, the balance of payments deficit in 1980 would be £10 million, and if it were reduced to 0·40 it would be £44 million. There would be increased costs and inconvenience for the motorist as well as problems for the country through the balance of payments.

We know from previous experience when we discussed the question in the House that this is not an urgent matter. Much more lead is taken in through food and drink and in the vicinity of smelters. This matter could be left to be phased down gradually to 0·40 grammes per litre by 1980, and that is the recommendation I make.