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Are hazy skies entirely the fault of oil companies? | Updated: 2013-02-06 20:32

The hazy weather in China has had some people calling attention to the quality of oil products, as some believe it is one of the causes of the pollution. However, environmental protection cannot rely just on corporate social responsibility. A thorough legal system and strict law enforcement should be applied as soon as possible, says an editorial in Beijing News. Excerpts:

Oil producer China Petroleum & Chemical Corp, responding to the accusations, said all oil quality meets China's standards, and those standards cannot reach international standards, which are higher.

In reality, most regions in China are using Euro III emission standards, with a maximum sulfur content of 150 parts per million. Only a few cities apply a higher standard. Shanghai and Nanjing are using the Euro IV standard, while Beijing is the only city in China applying the Euro V emission standard, with a maximum sulfur content of 10 parts per million.

But in fact, the Euro V standard has been available since 2011 in China, but isn’t readily available. The excuse is that there is a "transition period" until the end of 2013. Therefore, the oil corporations have the right not to put the oil with the Euro V standard on the market.

The question is: Who set the "transition period"? According to media reports, although the final plan needed approval from the government, such a period was originally set by two oil standard committees in China, over 70 percent of whose members are composed of oil industry representatives. The "transition period" has became a "delaying period."

But we should not blame only the companies for not accepting their corporate social responsibility. According to international experience, the cost of upgrading oil quality should be undertaken by state tax revenue, producers and consumers. For China, the costs are now covered only by companies and consumers. Since it is normal for companies to make more profits by cutting costs, Chinese consumers became the most responsible for paying the bills, which is unfair.

In China, environmental protection should be largely supported by the government, with 900 billion yuan ($144 billion) collected in oil consumption tax over four years. We cannot count on the companies taking the responsibility or the common consumers paying the bill. Only with a thorough legal system and strict law enforcement established by the government can blue skies be maintained in cities in the future.

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