For those who are familiar with China's laws and efforts to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases, the document issued by 15 central ministerial departments that says gas mixed with ethanol will be used to fuel vehicles nationwide by 2020 should not come as a surprise, because it will facilitate the shift from fossil fuels to clean energy.
Ethanol mixed with gas, or ethanol gas, is being used in 11 provinces on a trial basis and research to develop better technology in this regard has been going on for years. Which means the decision to use ethanol gas to fuel vehicles across China by 2020 is based on what has already been achieved in developing the technology to produce the needed volume of ethanol and to promote the shift to clean energy.
Besides, studies are supposedly on to prepare a timetable for phasing out the manufacturing and sales of gas-powered vehicles in the future. The phase-out process is likely to be accompanied by a likely increase in the use of electric vehicles, which could take years because electric cars are expensive and there are too few charging points to meet the rising demand.
Before those goals are realized, however, the use of ethanol gas in vehicles could reduce harmful tailpipe emissions of carbon monoxide, particulate matter and oxides of nitrogen.
China has about 200 million registered vehicles, and the greenhouse gases they emit are major contributors to air pollution. And it is to reduce these emissions that the government has been promoting new energy vehicles, by subsidizing their manufacturing costs and issuing favorable sales policies since 2010. That more than 1 million new-energy vehicles had been sold in China by the end of last year, making it the country with the highest number of such cars, speaks volumes of its green efforts.
In the first half of this year, China sold 123,000 electric vehicles, the most in the world and almost twice as many as the 64,000 in the United States, and it was also home to nine of the top 20 selling brands in the world.
The use of ethanol gas to fuel cars, therefore, should be seen as a phase that would pave the way to realizing the grander design of having only eco-friendly vehicles on China's roads. The shift to ethanol gas could also help China in upgrading its clean energy policy to meet the commitments it made at the 2015 Paris climate change conference and set an example for other countries to follow.