''Giggle juice'' for Kiwi cars

Forget the flatulence tax - New Zealanders can now add "giggle juice" (ethanol) made from cows' milk to their vehicles' petrol.

The Environmental Risk Management Authority yesterday approved adding ethanol, up to 10% by volume, to petrol. Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority chief executive Heather Staley is reported as describing ethanol as "giggle juice" when announcing the ERMA's approval of ethanol.

Staley said adding ethanol to petrol would help New Zealand reduce its carbon dioxide emissions, under the Kyoto Protocol, as ethanol was a renewable energy source based on cows' milk.

Most New Zealand ethanol is made from byproducts of the cheese manufacturing process. Dairy giant Fonterra is the main New Zealand producer, making 15 million litres a year, with much of it sold overseas to make vodka.

However, oil companies say they are only likely to introduce ethanol if public demand proves strong enough, as too much ethanol in petrol can cause performance problems in some cars. However, a 10% blend - the level now allowed in petrol in Australia and the United States - is suited to most cars built in the last 15 years.

Shell New Zealand yesterday said it was pleased the ERMA had cleared the use of ethanol for blending into petrol, though further work needed to be done before ethanol could form part of New Zealand's future fuel mix.

"With Shell alone pumping over 750 million litres of petrol a year, and the total amount of ethanol available in New Zealand being about 20 million litres, it is obvious there is a serious shortfall in the availability of ethanol to meet oil company needs," said Shell NZ's retail manager Mark Nobilo.

"As the largest supplier of bio fuels in the world, Shell is fully behind the introduction of bio fuels on a country by country basis. We have worked closely with the EECA and ERMA to ensure that ethanol is an option for New Zealand in the future and we will continue to work with the relevant authorities to assess the use of ethanol in New Zealand," he added.

New Zealand farmers are presently protesting their government's plan to impose a "flatulence tax" on cows and sheep to fund research into reducing animal emissions.