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Tuesday, 24 September 2002
Page: 4723


Senator KIRK (2:29 PM) —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Hill. Can the minister confirm that Holden warned, in a letter dated 22 February 2002 to the environment department secretary, Roger Beale, that the use of between 10 and 20 per cent ethanol would cause problems with starting car engines in cold weather? Can the minister also confirm that Holden advised that standard car engines could not cope effectively with the leaner fuel mixtures of high ethanol blended petrol? Why has the government ignored this advice and refused to set a limit on ethanol petrol blends?


Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —The government has not ignored any advice. As I think Senator Minchin acknowledged the other day, there is a debate as to what is a safe limit in terms of the effect of ethanol upon engines. That debate has been going on for some time. I recall a number of papers suggesting different limits as being appropriate. That issue, as I recall, is being considered as part of the whole issue of standards for biofuels. It is a complex debate; those detailed studies are taking considerable time. When the government has that considered and objective advice, I would expect that it would act upon it.


Senator KIRK —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is the minister aware that Holden also warned in its letter of 22 February to the environment department secretary, Roger Beale, that the use of petrol with higher ethanol levels would add to vapour pressure in vehicles with carburettors and that this would lead to vapour lock and carburettor boiling in hot weather? Why has the government ignored this advice and refused to set a limit on ethanol petrol blends?


Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —Mr President, I did my best to answer that question; it was the primary question restated. The point is that there are different views as to what is an appropriate ethanol limit.



Senator HILL —In this instance, Senator, you don't understand the issues. There are differing views that are being objectively assessed. When the government has that objective advice, it will act upon it.