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Diesel sulphur debate heats up

Published: 11:30PM Wednesday June 20, 2001

Independent petrol supplier Gull Petroleum says it is paying the price for having clean diesel.

The company says it has run out of diesel after demand soared during the dirty diesel crisis affecting the four main oil companies.

Gull says more diesel supplies will be available at the end of the month, but in a bid to keep its new customers, the company has knocked two cents a litre off the cost of its low octane petrol between Whangarei and Palmerston North.

Meanwhile, the Auckland Regional Council is calling for a boycott of oil company Mobil over sulphur levels in diesel.

New Zealand has much more sulphur in its diesel than Britain or Australia and the ARC is trying to change that.

While BP, Shell and Caltex have all agreed to lower the level of sulphur in diesel on sale in Auckland, Mobil is holding out.

Now a new radio campaign by the ARC is urging consumers to boycott Mobil.

"It is a bit, you might think, outrageous to call for a boycott, but I could not think of any other way to get this message to Mobil," says councillor Phil Warren.

Mobil has launched a newspaper campaign in self-defence, but is facing mounting opposition.

"The emails and communications are running into the thousands, I've never seen anything like it in twenty years of local government, the support we're getting for the campaign," Warren says.

Luxury car companies have added their voices to the argument - our current high sulphur levels mean certain European diesels will not run on Kiwi fuel, so they are not even being brought into the country.

"The sulphur level of diesel fuels in Europe are at this stage 350 parts per million... here in NZ we're running at 2000 to 2200 parts per million. Our fuel is just not good enough," says Andrew Bayliss of Peugeot New Zealand.

Now Phil Warren has suggested Government legislation could be used to force the multinational oil company to bend to the ARC's rules.

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