The advancement of Euro VI compliant fuels by two years will help combat air pollution

Narendra Modi government’s decision to advance the rolling out of relatively more environment friendly Euro VI compliant fuels by two years will make the national capital region a better place to live.

Once the Euro VI fuels are made available beginning April 1 next year, vehicular emissions contributing to particulates, sulphur and carbon emissions will reduce by four times. While sale of high grade would be limited to Delhi and satellite townships around the national capital, two years advancement will hasten the clean up elsewhere as well.

Hitherto, oil companies, automobile manufacturers had agreed upon 2020 as the deadline to scale up the environment friendly gasoline and diesel induction. Given the precarious environment conditions prevailing in NCR, the decision assumes significance though the smog has cleared to a great extent in the last two days. Particulate matter reading lowered to 2.5 or 265, blanket pollution cover continues to be cause of heart attacks, cancer and respiratory diseases. The new fuels will have 10 parts per million sulphur vis-à-vis 50 parts presently providing a breather.

While the existing vehicles of Euro – IV type can be run on superior grade diesel and petrol, full advantage will be felt only if concomitant upgraded versions of cars, trucks, motor cycles and other automobiles are quickly introduced.

Upgrading the production of fuels at refineries level has a cost for the oil companies given that billions of dollars will have to be invested. These investment costs may have to be shared by consumers, government through its own share of revenues and upstream companies. Industrial consumers of hydrocarbons may have to fork out more on fuels.

Apart from state-run oil companies, large private energy conglomerates like Reliance Industries, Essar, Cairn Energy etc will have to join hands and invest heavily into upgrading their production facilities as well. While this has to happen within fixed timelines, vehicle manufacturers may have to come up with innovations to scale down emissions that have virtually made Delhi a living hellhole.

Till date, several vehicle companies have resisted changes in emission norms. Investing in good life of their customers makes eminent business sense rather than treating research & development as a burden or drag on their margins. Decarbonising vehicles across the range will have to happen willingly and not forced upon by the government, regulators or courts. It is pertinent to point the resistance put up by vehicle producers for switch over to Euro-IV compliant products earlier this year.

In fact, Supreme Court had to issue a directive putting a full stop on sale of Euro-III vehicles beginning April 1 this year. Though, the deadline was set way back in 2010, automobiles, commercial vehicles and two-wheeler producers had offered lame excuses to sell high polluting vehicles.

Its not that the highest court had suddenly wokeN up to stop sales of Euro-III grade vehicles. Automobile companies were very much aware that the switch over would lead to reduction in particulate emissions by over 80 per cent from trucks, 50 per cent by cars and 41-80 per cent from two-wheelers depending on their engine size and make. Even then, these companies sold Euro-III vehicles on the sly for over six months citing demonetisation, backdating invoices, pushing their products at huge discounts or outright cash. This irresponsible behaviour will have to stop once and for all at least now.

As was pointed out then by justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta, public health and environment concerns must weigh much above commercial interests of some companies. In fact companies like Maruti, Toyota, Hyundai and hONDA should take the lead to produce Euro VI compliant vehicles without much fuss. Simultaneously, government should consider advancing deadlines to phase out petrol and diesel vehicles replacing them with electric vehicles like several modern cities globally.