Report: Dirty Diesel

Swiss commodity trading companies take advantage of weak fuel standards in Africa to produce, deliver and sell diesel and gasoline, which is damaging to people’s health. Their business model relies on an illegitimate strategy of deliberately lowering the quality of fuels in order to increase their profits. Using a common industry practice called blending, trading companies mix cheap but toxic intermediate petroleum products to make what the industry calls “African Quality” fuels. These intermediate products contain high levels of sulphur as well as other toxic substances such as benzene and aromatics. By selling such fuels at the pump in Africa, the traders increase outdoor air pollution, causing respiratory disease and premature death. This affects West Africa in particular, because this is the region where the authorized levels of sulphur in fuels remain very high. West Africa does not have the refining capacity to produce enough petroleum and diesel for its own consumption, and so it must import the majority of its fuels from Europe and the US, where fuel standards are strict.

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