By AARON BACK and CARLOS TEJADA
BEIJING -- China will increase fuel standards for diesel and
gasoline over the next four years as leaders grapple with
intensifying public pressure to solve the nation's mounting
China's State Council, or cabinet, said Wednesday it would
ratchet up national fuel standards to levels similar to those
currently found in the US and Europe by the end of 2017.
Meanwhile, Chinese officials said they would publish new
automotive diesel standards as soon as possible that will slash
sulfur emissions to about one-seventh of current permitted
levels. The new diesel standards will become effective
nationwide by the end of next year, it said.
Beijing will also give room to China's refining industry to
pass on the cost to consumers, according to the statement on
the State Council's website. China strictly controls fuel
prices, which limits the ability of refining companies to easily pass on
the cost of refinery and antipollution upgrades
The State Council also said it would hold industry more
accountable. Fees for pollution will be raised, the statement
said, while enforcement of the fuel-quality standards will be
stepped up and penalties increased for violations, it
It ordered China's three state-owned oil companies, China
National Petroleum Corp., China National Offshore Oil Corp. and
China Petrochemical Corp., to upgrade refining facilities to meet the standards.
The companies didn't respond to requests late Wednesday for
The moves, which were widely expected, follow the worst
pollution in Beijing and other parts of the country in recent
memory. Several times during the month of January air quality
in the region lingered at levels considered hazardous by health
officials in the US.
The levels of the most dangerous particulate matter in the air
-- known as PM2.5 for its extremely small size -- at times rose
to levels not seen in the US except during major fires.
The spate of pollution put China's massive state-controlled
refining industry under a spotlight. The Chinese Academy of
Sciences this week blamed motor vehicles for contributing
nearly one-quarter of Beijing's PM2.5 levels.
The technical committee working on tighter diesel standards
is overwhelmingly dominated by refining-industry representatives,
according to industry experts.
Tang Dagang, director of the Vehicle Emission Control Center, a
policy research group also affiliated with China's
Environmental Protection Ministry, said last month that Chinese
refineries won't produce cleaner fuel until the higher
production costs are addressed by Chinese officials.
Diesel fuel in particular has been blamed for much of
China's pollution problems. Trucks account for almost
one-quarter of China's vehicles but contribute a
disproportionate share, almost 80%, of vehicle particulate
The Wall Street Journal (via
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