TDs and Senators investigate ‘fuel stretching’

Oireachtas Committee on Transport hears cars have been lost to contaminated fuel

Some families have lost as many as three cars to engine damage as a result of contaminated fuel, while a number of insurance companies have refused to pay repair estimates of up to €12,000.  Photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill / THE IRISH TIMES

Some families have lost as many as three cars to engine damage as a result of contaminated fuel, while a number of insurance companies have refused to pay repair estimates of up to €12,000. Photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill / THE IRISH TIMES

 

Some families have lost as many as three cars to engine damage as a result of contaminated fuel, while a number of insurance companies have refused to pay repair estimates of up to €12,000.

That’s according to TDs and Senators who today began an investigation into how dozens of cars in Cos Mayo, Roscommon and Meath came to have their engines wrecked through contaminated fuels.

Officials of the Revenue, gardaí and customs are all involved in the attempt to identify those behind contaminated fuel which has left people – including those in rural areas – without their cars to get to work.

This morning senior revenue official Gerald Moran told members of the Oireachtas Committee on Transport that Revenue was following a paper trail of invoices and examining bank accounts to determine who had supplied petrol to a range of garages where customers subsequently complained their engines had seized.

He said it had not yet been determined if the contamination had been accidental or was the result of the practice known as “petrol stretching”, which involves essentially diluting the petrol with another liquid, such as methanol.

Committee Chairman John O’Mahony said the numbers of garages involved and cars affected had led people to believe petrol stretching was involved.

Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley said in some families as many as three cars had suffered severe engine damage because of family loyalty to a particular supplier. He said in a number of cases insurance companies had argued this was not an insurable risk, and refused to pay for repairs , leaving people with bills of up to €12,000.

Mr Moran said Revenue had closed more than 130 garages since 2011 over selling tax-rebated diesel, also known as “green diesel” from which the green marker had been removed.

He said diesel laundering gave a potential advantage of more then 50 cent per litre, compared with just over four cent per litre for diluting petrol with methanol. He said the Revenue was “aware of the pain” of motorists and the onus was on the retailers to exercise care in where they got their supplies.

It is open to the committee to consider recommending changes in the law including more widespread tractability and sampling of fuels.