UK government continues to back LPG

The UK government is looking for a substantial leap in the number of motorists switching to liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) by extending eligibility for conversion grants, to vehicles up to five years old, from the beginning of November.

According to Transport Minister David Jamieson, this measure could give a further two million extra motorists access to low-duty LPG, which currently costs less than 40p per litre.

LPG conversion grants have been available since 1996, under the government-sponsored TransportAction PowerShift programme. This was set up to ‘kick-start’ markets for clean fuel vehicles running on LPG, natural gas and electricity. It is part of an initiative run by the Energy Savings Trust – a joint government/industry group, established in the wake of the 1992 Earth Summit.

As well as administering the grants, PowerShift also monitors the quality of conversions, enabling car owners to insure their cars at no added cost, provided approved converters carry out the work. Depending on the level of emissions improvement, grants will now be available for up to 50% of the conversion costs – which can range from £1,300 to £1,800. LPG is now available at 900 UK filling stations. A PowerShift spokesman told edie that 65,000 UK vehicles are likely to be running on LPG by the end of 2001. This compares with 25,000 at the end of 2000 and 5,000 at the end of 1999. These figures include vehicles converted without grant support.

The extension of the LPG scheme comes at a time when the UK biofuels sector is calling for parity with LPG on tax concessions to give it a ‘kick-start’. Peter Clery, chairman of BABFO, the trade body representing the UK biofuels industry, told edie, that with biodiesel, no engine conversions or major modifications to the existing fuel distribution network would be required. He estimates that British farmers could produce up to 5-7% of the UK’s DERV requirements in five to seven years time, as well as contributing to government targets for climate change.

“After at least five years of promotion with taxpayers money the out-turn for the gas fuels is pathetic,” said Clery. “In the last 12 months, only 46,000 tonnes were used: 0.01% of the 37 million petrol and diesel uptake in the UK. We ask why the Government continues to push this and ignore biofuels. We think it may be the power of the big oil and gas companies who would lose out if the farmers became fuel producers. Put in context, the gas case is almost laughable after all the effort put in.” According to Clery, the greenhouse gas emissions from biofuels are half those from gas fuels, and the Department of Trade and Industry is also warning of gas shortages before too long.

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