Leaded Fuel Phase Out – Are We Ready?

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK WITH only 19 days to go before leaded petrol (Premium 93) is phased out, many vehicles have not yet been adjusted in order to use the more environment friendly model, unleaded petrol (ULP 95). There appears to be little or no awareness on the part of motorists. Service stations indicated yesterday that although many people may have heard about the phasing out of leaded petrol as from January 1, 2006, they still do not understand why they should change to unleaded petrol. “People still do not understand what effect this change will have on their cars. They don’t understand why they should change when they all along used leaded petrol,” said a manager at Hakahana Service Station, Hafeni Vilho yesterday. Come January 1, 2006, two petrol grades, namely ULP 95 and Lead Replacement Petrol (LRP 93) will be available in Namibia. However, ministry officials say the country still has an extension period of six months up to June to allow petrol station owners to empty their tanks of the leaded fuel. The Ministry of Mines and Energy in August announced the phasing out of leaded petrol as lead will no longer be added to petrol in the production process, neither will it be marketed by oil companies. Although Namibia still uses the leaded petrol, almost 85 percent of the world’s petrol today is free of lead. The decision to phase the lead out was taken by Cabinet in a bid to have cleaner fuels, which would reduce harmful vehicle emissions and promote fuel efficiency. Vehicles that are not compatible with unleaded petrol will use LRP 93. An awareness campaign, which forms part of an education programme to precede the change over, was also launched in August when Minister Erkki Nghimtina announced the phasing out of leaded petrol. So far, the ministry has produced a pamphlet and has developed a website on the phasing out of leaded fuel. It has distributed the pamphlets to service stations where petrol attendants explain the new development to their clients. Vilho said petrol attendants have been instructed to inform their clients about the phasing out and also the effects of leaded fuel on the environment as well as on human health. An environmental group, Earthlife yesterday welcomed the move by the government but noted that a lot of cars were still reliant on leaded petrol. “It is a noble idea. It’s good that the government has taken this up,” said Bertchen Kohrs, Earthlife’s liaison officer. Leaded fuel adversely affects young children by lowering their intelligence. Therefore, with leaded fuel phased out, children, especially those in the vicinity of highways where lead components are concentrated, would no longer get exposed to the toxin. The benefits of phasing out lead to the environment include reduction of lead components in the atmosphere and the soil, while those for the motorist include lower service costs, extending oil change intervals and also cleaner spark plugs. While some vehicles are fully compatible with unleaded petrol, others will be compatible with changes, while yet others are not compatible at all. For example, an Audi model 500 of 1984 to 1987, a BMW E30-3 Series of 1986 to 1992 and Ford Cortina 1600 L of 1980 to 1984 are not compatible. Lead has been widely used as a petrol additive since 1920 but only recently has it been realised that it could have negative effects on the environment. It was added to petrol because it was considered the most economical way of boosting the Octane in petrol, thus reducing production costs.