Speech – Urging the government to eradicate “Gutter Oil” and take the lead in Supporting Biodiesel (Lo Wai Kwok)

President, the motion today touches on two issues; first, the recovery and handling of “gutter oil”; and second, the support and promotion of biodiesel.

Used cooking oil is known as “gutter oil” on the Mainland and it has extensive meanings, including oil refined from waste food or residue from the gutter drain, as well as slop oil and perennial oil, and so on. In recent years, unlawful persons in Mainland China have processed “gutter oil” and reused it as cooking oil, which caused public health hazards and widespread concerns. However, with proper recovery and processing, used cooking oil has very high application values, and it can be refined into products such as biodiesel and aviation kerosene. But, industry players have reflected to me that there is no sound and comprehensive used cooking oil recovery system in Hong Kong, and there is no channel for the production and sales of biodiesel. It is learnt that large quantities of used cooking oil is transported from Hong Kong to the Mainland because the recovery price of used cooking oil in China is higher than that in Hong Kong. It is indeed worrying if used cooking oil will later be reused as cooking oil. Therefore, the SAR Government should examine the operation of the related supply chain and consider how to prevent the inappropriate use of used cooking oil in order to safeguard the consumption of cooking in Hong Kong.

From the perspective of environmental protection, we want to ensure that the used cooking oil recovered will ultimately be refined into biodiesel or used for other environmental protection purposes. The catering industry is now implementing the Quality Restaurant Environmental Management Scheme and one of the assessment criteria is waste reduction and management. If a participating merchant hands over used cooking oil to a reliable collector for recovery and recycling, as well as the production of biodiesel or other products, he will get extra scores as an incentive. This illustrates that the catering industry can co-operate fully with the used cooking oil recycler and achieve the appropriate recovery and recycling of used cooking oil.

President, today, I am going to focus on examining how the SAR Government should support and promote biodiesel. Biodiesel is a renewable energy derived from refining vegetable oil, fat or used cooking oil. Promoting the use of biodiesel can alleviate global warming and reduce pollution. Yet, the production and application of biodiesel in Hong Kong is still at the elementary stage and the future prospect mainly depends on the SAR Government’s attitude, as well as whether there are complementary policies and measures. Quite a number of places in the world have enacted laws to mandatorily specify that vehicle diesel must comprise a certain percentage of biodiesel or mandatorily set the “utilization rate targets”. For example, in the year 2012-2013, it is specified in the United Kingdom that biodiesel must account for 4.5% of vehicle fuel. The European Union has also set an objective, that is, by 2020, 10% of the energy for land transportation must be renewable energy, including the use of biodiesel and hydrogen fuel cells for electric vehicles. In Hong Kong, even though the shipping and logistics industries earnestly want to increase the use of biodiesel, the Government has not enacted any relevant laws or similar provisions to promote its use; hence, the industries are frequently at a loss. For instance, according to some industry players, under the existing fire services regulations, the provision on the storage of diesel is applied to the storage of biodiesel (B5). Since the combustion point of biodiesel is much higher than that of ordinary diesel, it is rather safe. The existing provision on storage has undoubtedly limited the industry’s storage and use of biodiesel. Nonetheless, the Financial
Secretary announced in the Budget that $10 billion will be set aside as subsidies, coupled with regulatory measures, to progressively phase out heavily polluting pre-Euro IV diesel commercial vehicles, which is expected to provide biodiesel with more market space.

President, in the foreseeable future, biodiesel can also be mainly applied in the aviation industry. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines announced last year the use of biofuel derived from special refinery processes for its flights. The European Union had passed a Bill on the incorporation of international aviation into the carbon emission trading system, specifying that from 2012 onwards, limits would be imposed on carbon emission of all airlines flying in its territory, and the so-called “aviation carbon tax” must be paid on the excess amount. Because of the strong opposition of the aviation industries in many countries, it is decided to suspend the implementation for one year. As Hong Kong is an international aviation centre, we must plan ahead and get prepared for the application of bio-aviation fuel; otherwise, it would be difficult to maintain our advantageous position as an international aviation centre.

President, regarding the support and promotion of biodiesel, apart from refining the green procurement policy to try its best to take the lead in using biodiesel, the Government should also devise long-term plans, including complementary plans on the use of land. For example, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge will be commissioned in 2016, and the Airport Authority plans to expand the third runway. The authorities should expeditiously make plans on the conversion of the existing underwater fuel pipelines connecting the airport and the fuel reception facility outside the airport, and reserve the land adjacent to the Hong Kong port of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge to be commissioned, and set up additional fuel storage facilities for the storage of biodiesel, so as to ensure that the increasing demands of the shipping and logistics industries for clean fuels would be met in the future.

President, I so submit.


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