India’s Supreme Court on October 24, 2017 banned the use in New Delhi of petroleum coke, a dirtier alternative to coal, in an attempt to clean the air in one of the world’s most polluted cities
India's Supreme Court on October 24, 2017 banned the use in New Delhi of petroleum coke, a dirtier alternative to coal, in an attempt to clean the air in one of the world's most polluted cities.
According to the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, petroleum coke, composed mainly of carbon, emits 11% more greenhouse gases than coal and seven times more sulphur dioxide when burnt, causing lung diseases and acid rain.
India suffers the highest number of deaths from pollution globally, with 2.5 million premature deaths relating to pollution recorded in 2015.
The court also banned the sale and use of furnace oil, another dirty refinery by-product, in the capital and surrounding area and ordered the implementation of stringent emission regulations by the end of 2017.
Sulphur-heavy and highly polluting fuels like petroleum coke and furnace oil are widely used by paper mills, brick kilns, ceramic businesses and cement factories, which prefer these types of fuel over coal because of their assured supply, energy efficiency and cheaper price.
The ban on petroleum coke’s sale and use, effective from November 1, 2017, is expected to impact the country's small- and medium-scale industries, which run on tight margins and employ millions of workers.
These companies say banning cheap fuel could harm their ability to expand, preventing them from hiring more workers at the same time as Prime Minister Narendra Modi pushes for increased job creation.
Demand for the fuel has almost doubled over the past four years to more than 27 million tonnes, though it did fall in August, 2017 when shipments from the US, India’s biggest exporter of the fuel, were hit by Hurricane Harvey.
Analysts and traders, however, say consumption will likely recover and increase without a countrywide ban.
Sunita Narain, environmental activist and member of a governmental committee which recommended the ban of such fuels around the Indian capital, told Reuters: “It is a big win for clean air.”