Kristy Needham, 20 December 2015

Initiative is part of a push by the Baird government to boost ethanol fuel use.

Drivers will be able to shop around for the cheapest petrol using a government website that tracks all fuel prices, service station by station, in a push by the Baird government to boost ethanol fuel use.

The NRMA has welcomed the move to force all service stations in NSW to display their prices in real time on the Fair Trading website next year.

“The oil companies have historically shared this information among themselves but it has never been available to the public – this could be a game changer,” NRMA president Kyle Loades said.

The transparency measure comes in a package of reforms designed to lower the cost of the ethanol blend E10 for drivers. The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal will regulate the ethanol wholesale price for the first time.

Minister for Better Regulation Victor Dominello said this would “help to put downward pressure on the price of E10”.

Mr Loades said E10 should be at least 3¢ a litre cheaper than regular unleaded petrol, and the savings need to be passed on to motorists.

The NSW government mandates that 6 per cent of all fuel should be ethanol, but the proportion is only 3 per cent and falling.

That translates to E10 making up a third of all petrol sold at the bowser, while premium unleaded accounts for 40 per cent of sales, and regular unleaded 28 per cent.

An IPART report found just over half (55 per cent) of service stations sold E10. Consumer aversion and the perception E10 wasn’t value for money were the biggest barriers to uptake.

Only major suppliers with 20 or more sites have been required to sell E10.

Reforms to be announced on Sunday by Mr Dominello will broaden the ethanol mandate to require all service stations that supply three or more types of fuel to sell E10.

Small retailers will be exempt, depending on the volume of petrol they sell annually, he said.

The convenience stores association had warned against compelling all service stations to sell E10, and called on the government to compensate business owners for the cost of upgrading equipment.

The NRMA said small retailers were often the cheapest, and it was important they received exemptions so they remained viable.

“The NSW government is committed to creating a competitive biofuels industry in which E10 is a cheap and attractive option for motorists, while maintaining choice among other regular and premium unleaded fuels,”Mr Dominello said.

“Ethanol is an environmentally sustainable source of fuel and has many benefits including reducing our reliance on foreign fuel imports, and supporting regional jobs.”

NSW and Queensland are the only Australian jurisdiction to mandate ethanol use, but Mr Dominello said governments in the US, Canada, France and Japan also have mandates to boost ethanol industries.

The IPART report found that if the ethanol mandate was widened, price regulation would be necessary because the ethanol producer Manildra was a monopoly supplier. Manildra is a major donor to the Liberal, Nationals and Labor parties.

Mr Loades said supporting a home-grown biofuels industry was the only way to provide protection from petrol price volatility.

Currently, E10 is 1.5 per cent cheaper than regular unleaded. It needs to be 3 per cent cheaper to represent value for money for motorists, because ethanol contains less energy than petrol and increases fuel consumption, according to IPART.

Extracted in full from the Sydney Morning Herald.