Official: Autogas is the healthier fuel option

We have known for a long time that Autogas is a more environmentally friendly and healthier fuel than either gasoline or diesel. But with the announcement on 12 June by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) – part of the prestigious World Health Organization (WHO) – that diesel-engine exhaust causes cancer, we now have official confirmation of yet one more reason to switch to Autogas. 

The IARC has for more than two decades classified diesel engine exhaust as a “probable” carcinogen – a cancer-causing agent – but there has been no clear evidence linking it to higher cancer rates up to now. But two papers published recently based on research involving more than 12,000 mine workers done by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health change that. Together, they found an increase in lung cancer rates among workers exposed to diesel exhaust underground, with greater exposure linked to steadily higher cancer rates. In workers with the highest exposure, deaths from lung cancer tripled in one study, and increased five-fold in the other.

Based on this evidence, the WHO has decided to name diesel fume a grade-1 cancer-causing substance. It claims that diesel fumes could potentially be as big a public health threat as second-hand smoke, increasing the chances of lung cancer and bladder cancer.

Make no mistake: the IARC warning is nothing short of a bombshell, with shock waves that are likely to be felt across the fuel and car industries worldwide. And it opens up a glorious opportunity for the Autogas business to restate its case.  

The case for Autogas has always been based primarily on its environmental and health merits. Autogas out-performs gasoline and diesel as well as some other alternative fuels in the majority of studies comparing environmental performance. Autogas emissions are especially low with respect to noxious pollutants, such as carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides and unburned hydrocarbons, which together contribute to ground-level ozone – a major cause of respiratory illness. And it is not just diesel that causes cancer: gasoline contains benzene and various other unregulated substances that are known to be carcinogenic. On top of that, Autogas performs better than gasoline and, according to some studies, diesel, with respect to greenhouse-gas emissions when emissions are measured on a full fuel-cycle basis and when the LPG is sourced mainly from natural gas processing plants.

The timing of the IARC announcement is certainly propitious. Autogas represents an obvious high-value sector for the growing volumes of LPG that are coming onto the market with rising gas production. Nowhere is the economic case for Autogas more obvious than in the United States, where the boom in shale gas drilling is generating huge additional supplies of natural gas liquids.

The Autogas industry – from fuel providers to carmakers to converters – needs to seize this opportunity. Autogas is already by far the most widely used and accepted alternative automotive fuel in use in the world today, but the scope for expanding sales is enormous: in most countries, Autogas makes a tiny share of total road-fuel sales.  In many countries, tax policy still favours diesel over gasoline and, in some cases, Autogas. That must change.

It’s time to step up our efforts to get the message across: LPG is exceptional energy – and Autogas is an exceptional fuel.

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