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Petrol: Ethanol Content

Volume 726: debated on Tuesday 29 March 2011


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is the timetable for implementing the increased maximum ethanol content in petrol; and what effect the change will have on the engines of classic and vintage vehicles.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I declare a non-financial interest as president of the Jaguar Drivers’ Club.

My Lords, petrol containing 10 per cent ethanol has been permitted from January 2011. Petrol containing up to 5 per cent ethanol is currently available and expected to be marketed until at least 2015. Petrol pumps dispensing petrol containing over 5 per cent ethanol must display a cautionary label. Research commissioned by the Department for Transport into the potential impact of ethanol on vehicle fuel systems showed that there could be compatibility issues for classic and vintage vehicles.

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for his answer. He has a delicate way of putting it. In fact, ethanol attacks fibreglass fuel tanks, bits of aluminium, fuel filters and so on. Therefore it is important that he gives an undertaking that the 5 per cent limit will be consistently available and not be superseded by the 10 per cent limit.

My Lords, I am well aware of these issues. I declare an interest in that, because of fuel compatibility issues, I have had to fit an electronic fuel-injection system to a 27-litre V12 tank engine.

I am also well aware of the problem with glass-fibre fuel tanks. One of the issues for classic vehicles is the availability of replacement petrol tanks and the difficulty of making an irregular-shaped fuel tank.

My Lords, the noble Earl is probably aware that I am an aviator. Is he also aware that there are new and old small aircraft that rely on car petrol without ethanol in it? What provisions are the Government making to ensure that there is a supply of this in the future?

My Lords, in the long term, I cannot give reassurances. I will write to my noble friend about the availability of zero ethanol for aviation.

Will the noble Earl tell the House how many petrol-driven tank engines there are in the country? I thought they mostly ran on steam like Thomas does.

My Lords, the noble Lord is talking about the wrong type of tank. I am talking about a tank at the REME museum in Bordon.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that these additives in marine fuels can cause even more problems than those in automobile fuels because their consequences can be far more serious?

I am sure the noble Lord is right. There is a difficulty with some types of equipment that are not used regularly, such as standby generating sets. There can also be problems with the formation of algae but there are well-understood procedures for avoiding this problem.