The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Breather chokes clean fuel tap

Calcutta, April 4: The city’s hopes for clean fuel have been put on the backburner.

Oil companies have decided to go slow on plans to open a string of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) outlets across the city for vehicles, following a court order that has eased the pressure on the government to enforce Bharat Stage-II norms. The companies fear that demand will not pick up until fuel switchovers are made mandatory.

The Indian Oil Corporation, which coordinates the oil companies’ green project, announced today that eight outlets scheduled to have been commissioned this week would go on stream only when the companies detect enough business.

“We have decided to go slow on setting up the LPG outlets,” said A.C. De, IOC deputy general manager (LPG). “Setting up an LPG pump sets you back by about Rs 80 lakh. We find it commercially unwise to invest crores of rupees in such outlets at the moment. We will keep only two or three outlets operational for the time being.”

Last week’s high court order, issued on the basis of a Union government policy, requires vehicle owners to conform to only tail-pipe emission norms. The state government had not apprised the court of tougher options such as cleaner technology and fuel that would have tackled pollution at source.

The oil companies had stepped up work on green fuel outlets after a high court order in April last year. According to the initial timetable, 16 LPG outlets were to be set up by this week and 40 others by May.

IOC, Hindustan Petroleum and Bharat Petroleum would have commissioned eight LPG outlets this week at Prince Anwar Shah Road, Salt Lake, Alipore, Kankurgachhi, Tollygunge, Behala, Baranagar and Ultadanga. The outlets at Prince Anwar Shah Road and Baranagar are operational and the rest are nearly complete.

“Our experience is very bitter. There are about 30 customers at the Prince Anwar Shah Road outlet and about 20 at Baranagar. Why should we set up more pumps' Let the number of LPG-driven cars increase, let the compliance with BS-II norms become mandatory. Only then will we think about operating more pumps,’’ De said.

The government said though it cannot enforce switchovers, it would try to persuade owners of old vehicles to opt for LPG.

“LPG is much cheaper than other fuels. I will request the oil companies to open the pumps according to the earlier schedule,” said H. Mohan, the public vehicles department director.

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