Fuel for Debate

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21.02.2013 Caixin / Peking

Since late last year, many of the country’s largest cities have often been blanketed by nasty smog. The poor air quality has spurred debate over the most effective ways to cut pollution.

One of the bigger questions is how to better control emissions from the more than 240 million vehicles on China’s roads.

Auto emissions in Beijing, Shanghai and the Pearl River Delta region contribute up to 34 percent of PM2.5 pollution, research by Michael Walsh, former head of the International Council on Clean Transportation showed. (PM2.5 refers to fine particulate matter of 2.5 microns in diameter or less that is easily absorbed into the lungs and can cause breathing problems, among other health issues.)

Along with existing policies to control car use, there have been public calls for the government to improve fuel quality by reducing sulfur and manganese content in gas and diesel.

Different fuel standards are applied in different regions of the country. In May, the capital adopted on the strictest, the Beijing V standard, which mirrors Europe’s Euro V. The standard caps sulfur content at less than 10 parts per million (ppm), whereas the National IV regime in place in cities like Shanghai has a 50 ppm limit. Some regions using even lower standards.

The State Council, China’s cabinet, plans to apply the Beijing standard to the entire nation, calling it National V. A special committee has been formed to work on the draft of the new standard.

In February, the cabinet said that National IV standard would be adopted nationwide by 2014, and National V would come into effect in 2017.

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