A contentious NSW government program designed to boost the amount of E10 ethanol-blended petrol sold in NSW is under fire after figures revealed volumes have remained static during the first months of the regime.

Actual consumption of E10 increased marginally by 2273 kilolitres to 552,787 kilolitres between January and May this year compared to the same period in 2016.

But E10’s share of all petrol sold in NSW during this period has fallen slightly from 24.5 per cent in 2016 to 23.9 per cent this year, according to data compiled by the federal department of environment and energy.

The figures have prompted opponents of the NSW ethanol mandate – which says the biofuel should be 6 per cent of all petrol sold – to label new laws designed to significantly increase E10 consumption “a bad joke”.

It comes three months after the Productivity Commission called on the NSW government to axe the scheme because it increases petrol prices and reduces competition.

On January 1 the NSW government introduced new rules that force a wider range of petrol stations to sell E10, established an online fuel price board and asked the pricing regulator to set a maximum wholesale ethanol price.

The government says the changes are designed to “put downward pressure” on the price of E10 to provide a cheaper alternative for motorists.

But retailers warn businesses forced to sell E10 for the first time would need to increase the price of petrol to recoup the cost of equipment upgrades.

Fairfax Media has also revealed that ethanol producer Manildra secured 20 meetings with NSW ministers and donated more than $160,000 to the Coalition in a ferocious lobbying effort before the introduction of new laws.

Mark McKenzie, chief executive of the Australasian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers Association, said the figures showed the laws are “a bad joke”.

“These laws are increasing fuel costs for NSW motorists and increasing the costs for NSW small businesses, yet total usage of E10 has continued to fall,” he said.

To reach the 6 per cent NSW ethanol mandate, 60 per cent of all petrol sales need to be E10.

NSW Greens energy spokesman Jeremy Buckingham said it was “scandalous that motorists are being forced to pay for a product they don’t want simply to satisfy a major donor to the Liberal, National and Labor Parties”.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Finance Services and Innovation said the government’s E10 Fuel for Thought advertising campaign was launched on May 31, designed to dispel “myths” about E10 and “encourage NSW motorists to save money and explore their options in the petrol market”.

Extracted from SMH.