Swiss traders blame governments for dirty fuel in Africa

AP News
Posted: Sep 19, 2016 12:53 PM
Swiss traders blame governments for dirty fuel in Africa

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Swiss commodity traders accused of deliberately blending toxic fuel and dumping it in West Africa say African governments are to blame for low standards and failure to invest in refineries and newer vehicles to lower exhaust emissions that cause respiratory and other diseases.

"What is very clear is that the role of improving fuel quality in Africa clearly rests with African governments, not with the fuel suppliers," the Geneva-based African Refiners Association representing many traders said in a letter obtained Monday by The Associated Press.

It was responding to allegations from Swiss watchdog Public Eye accusing traders of deliberately adding toxic products that lower fuel quality to increase profits at the expense of Africans' health.

Public Eye said traders including Vitol and Trafigura provide Europe with fuel meeting European Union standards of 10 parts per million of sulfur while creating what's called "African Quality" fuel that has 2,000 ppm or more of sulfur. Nigeria, for example, allows up to 3,000 ppm of sulfur in petrol.

Nigeria's Department of Petroleum Resources called the Public Eye report "grossly exaggerated."

The refiners' association noted traders' essential role in "the survival and growth" of economies in Africa, which imports more than 50 percent of its fuel.

"If Swiss traders followed the report recommendation today their role would be filled by traders from other nations who would simply supply the quality required to meet the official specifications. The result would be that nothing would change in Africa," it said.

Public Eye responded Monday that "African governments should set stricter standards, international donors should invest in desulfurizing technologies ... and trading companies should stop bringing in high-sulfurous fuels."

It said the U.N. Environment Program says low-sulfur fuels can reduce harmful emissions by 50 percent by switching from 2,000 ppm sulfur fuels to 10 ppm.