San José’s smog-filled skies could start to breathe easier once cargo trucks and buses begin converting to a new diesel fuel that President Laura Chinchilla formally introduced to the market this week.
Known as Diesel 50, because it contains 50 parts per million (ppm) of sulfur, the new fuel has a lower sulfur content than regular diesel fuel, and is expected to cut automobile-generated sulfur dioxide emissions by up to 90 percent.
Costa Rica is the first Central American country to make the shift. Elsewhere in the region, the sulfur content in fuel remains as high as 5,000 ppm. Diesel 50 is already common in Europe and North America. Most developed countries are now aiming for fuel with sulfur contents of less than 10 percent.
According to a press release from the National Oil Refinery (RECOPE), sulfur dioxide emissions in Costa Rica equaled 800 tons last year. The use of the new diesel is expected to cut emissions to 80 tons annually.
“The considerable potential in reducing emissions is a benefit for the health of all Costa Ricans, as higher quality air can result in the decrease of respiratory sicknesses, cardiac problems and cancer,” the RECOPE statement said.
Costa Rica shifted to a fuel with a sulfur content of less than 500 ppm in 2009, hopes to reach 15 ppm by 2014.