Vietnam’s government is pushing for more consumption of a locally-produced biofuel blend which has remained unpopular since it was launched last year.
The prime minister issued an order this week asking eight major cities and provinces to make sure the gasoline grade E5, which contains 5 percent of cassava-based ethanol, is available at at least half of their gas stations by the end of November.
Hanoi, Hai Phong, Da Nang, Can Tho, Ho Chi Minh City and the provinces of Ba Ria-Vung Tau and Quang Nam started selling the product last December. Quang Ngai Province, home to the country’s sole refinery and one of its three ethanol production plants, launched it last September.
But official surveys found that only 10-25 percent of gas stations in these cities and provinces are selling the environmentally friendly alternative.
The ratio was lowest in Hanoi, around 6.5 percent, and Ho Chi Minh City, 10.7 percent, as of the end of July.
Many stations said interest in the new fuel has remained low and that they were not willing to invest in new gas pumps suitable for E5.
The new government order also required the ministries of trade, communication and science to create stronger campaigns to promote the new fuel.
It also asked the finance ministry to offer preferential tax policies to help cut E5 prices further.
The gasoline now retails at VND18,041 (around 80 US cents) a liter, cheaper than the best-selling grade A92 by a mere 2.6 percent.
The government order also asked the eight cities and provinces to consider making government offices and state-owned companies switch to the biofuel product for their vehicles.
Tests at Hanoi University of Technology have found that E5 can reduce hydrocarbon emissions and are good for engines.