Wishy washy: fuel policy announced

The National Auto Fuel Policy, unveiled by Union minister for petroleum and natural gas Ram Naik on October 6, is a softer version of a soft report. Based on the recommendations of the expert committee on auto fuel policy, it lays down a weak roadmap for vehicular emission control for the entire country.

The expert panel was set up in September 2001 and chaired by R A Mashelkar. It had submitted its report to the Union government in September 2002. The document, which had several loose ends, was examined by the petroleum ministry "in consultation with the Union ministries of finance, environment and forests, road transport and highways, and non-conventional energy sources, (apart from the) Planning Commission and state governments.

One of the suggestions that have been incorporated is the putting in place of Euro II norms from 2005 and Euro III standards from 2010, except in 11 cities that would have to comply with Euro III norms in 2005 itself and Euro IV norms from 2010. A senior official of a major automobile manufacturer remarked: "It (adherence to the standards) would not be much of a problem for petrol cars. But diesel car makers would probably have to move towards the common rail direct injection (CRDi) technology to meet Euro III norms.

Naik, however, put the ball of fiscal incentives in the finance ministry's court. If at all these sops are given, they would have to wait for each Union budget, he revealed. That lip service has been paid to the recommendations for promoting clean alternative fuels is evident from the fact that the petroleum ministry has not asked for any subsidy in this regard. Moreover, Naik reiterated that the focus would be on liquid fuels (petrol and diesel). He further observed that at present, too, commercial rates are paid for using liquefied petroleum gas as a motor fuel.

While giving its nod to the fuel policy, the Union cabinet also brushed aside the suggestion on setting up a nodal agency