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In Jilin, it'll soon be corn in the car
( 2003-09-02 10:31) (China Daily HK Edition)

Northeast China's Jilin Province will use corn to "feed" automobiles beginning from October 17, the result of a 3-billion-yuan (US$360 million) project, according to local government sources.

The project, launched two years ago, aims to mass-produce ethanol, also known as grain alcohol, from corn, and to commercialize it as auto fuel.

The move makes Jilin the pioneer province in popularizing grain alcohol gasoline for auto use; and it has set a tight timetable to urge auto drivers to abandon traditional gasoline - it plans to produce 600,000 tons of ethanol by September 19, enabling 2,400 gas stations across the province to provide the new fuel.

A set of provisional regulations have also been released to ensure the adoption of ethanol, which is efficient and environment-friendly, said a local official.

"It is of great significance that China's automobiles are beginning to 'burn' corn", said Zhang Weimin, vice-director of the Jilin Economic and Trade Promotion Committee, adding "popular use of alcohol fuel helps save energy resources of China, uses out-dated grains and is good for the environment."

China began to import petroleum in 1993, and it is predicted that the imports will reach 250 million tons, or 50 per cent of the country's total consumption, by the year 2020.

Ethanol is a clean fuel which can be burnt and does not produce substances harmful to the human body, say experts.

With bumper grain harvests in recent years, China has seen low grain prices and a slow increase in farmers' incomes as they find it difficult to sell their produce.

Jilin is the largest corn supplier in China, reporting a yearly output of 15 million tons; and with the popularity of ethanol, the province is expected to consume about 2 million tons of corn annually.

"It will be conducive to bettering grain distribution in Jilin and help farmers cash in," said Zhang.

To press ahead with the adoption of ethanol, which is about 1,000 yuan (US$121) more expensive than ordinary gasoline per ton, the Jilin government has decided to subsidize users of the new fuel, with both prices equal.

In addition, Zhang called for a nationwide adoption of the new fuel, saying a wider market is important.

"To popularize grain alcohol as fuel has been written in the Tenth Five-Year Plan (2001-2005). This shows the State's determination to buoy this new but promising product," an industry insider pointed out.

According to Zhang, Jilin will not require transit vehicles to follow the regulations.

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