(OZ Topic) Drivers told to watch for tainted fuel

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Drivers told to watch for tainted fuel
Thursday 2 March 2000

The RACV yesterday warned Victorian motorists to be wary of petrol diluted with paint solvent as the Federal Government vowed to crack down on the sale of tainted fuel.

The warnings follow the discovery of six Sydney service stations selling petrol containing up to 60per cent toluene, a solvent normally present in petrol in small amounts.

A spokesman for the RACV, Mr David Cumming, said the organisation had been informed by industry sources that petrol dilution and diesel dilution were occurring in Victoria.

"It's not as bad down here as it is in Sydney. The bigger problem down here has been diesel being replaced by heating oil," Mr Cumming said.

"Customs approached us 18 months ago to get support from us to put chemical traces in excise-free heating oil and a lot of that has been ending up in diesel tanks in service stations," he said.

The Deputy Prime Minister, Mr John Anderson, yesterday warned that petrol stations involved in the racket would face the full force of the law.

"(Legal penalties will be imposed on) anyone who's stupid enough to engage in that sort of anti-consumer activity," he said.

Toluene is present in leaded and unleaded fuels in levels of about 10per cent. But in higher levels, it damages engines and burns more quickly, meaning a tank of fuel does not last as long.

The New South Wales Fair Trading Minister, Mr John Watkins, said a number of stations had diluted petrol last year, reaping an estimated $100million. He warned that the practice could be taking place in other states.

The Federal Government collects a tax of 44 cents a litre on petrol. There is no tax on toluene.

A spokesman for the Victorian Government said there was no evidence to suggest the scam was operating in Victoria but he promised to monitor the matter.

Mr Anderson said the Government had tackled a similar problem with the dilution of diesel with "light fuel oils to avoid excise". He stressed that "straight profiteering" was unacceptable.

"Anybody engaging in that sort of activity - it doesn't matter whether they are profiteering, trying to protest (at high petrol prices) or make a point - they are doing something they should not be doing," he said.

The assistant federal Treasurer, Senator Rod Kemp, said the toluene scam had only "recently become a significant issue".

"The Federal Government has been advised by the Australian Taxation Office of the practice of using chemical Toluene, imported free of Customs duty, to extend petrol," he said.

The Service Station Association last night used the issue to call on the Federal Government to tax all petrol components at the same rate to stop station owners selling diluted fuel.

The association's director, Mr Chris Hanlan, said it was not known whether the solvent was being mixed into petrol by distributors or at service stations, but he believed the incidents were isolated.

The NSW Department of Fair Trading discovered the problem after it ordered investigators to take petrol samples. They found toluene levels from 16 per cent to nearly 60 per cent in unleaded petrol, which normally contained 8 per cent.

with AAP


It was reported on last night's current affairs that this practice issue is widespread, a direct result of high petrol prices and opportunism. Be aware...

Regards from OZ

-- Pieter (zaadz@icisp.net.au), March 01, 2000



Thank you very much for this post. I concur with your comments.

-- Dee (T1Colt556@aol.com), March 01, 2000.

Meant to post this here earlier this week.

I was listening to a radio cal-in show over the weekend. It was a car maintanence show. People call in to tell the host symptoms of car trouble, and the get potential diagnoses.

One guy called in about his son's pickup, which diesel had been put into. Seems the gas station had made a mistake and diluted unleaded with diesel. But I started wondering if something else may have happened and it was shipped that way.

This story definitely makes me wonder more.

-- Duke1983@aol.com (Duke1983@aol.com), March 02, 2000.

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