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A statutory instrument becomes effective in May 2020 in Sweden saying that petroleum providers need to declare country of origin of liquid and gaseous fuel.

How could this be arranged as an active choice from the consumer instead of a provider declaration? Could it be arranged with oil trade instruments (like futures contracts, options, contracts for difference (CFD), exchange traded funds (ETF), etc.) by the end customer at the time of refueling?

Compare with active electricity choice (aktivt elval) in Sweden, where consumers choose what kind of electricity they want.

Some petroleum providers have said that the statutory instrument is impossible to fulfill, when interpreted as a declaration from their side.

I post in Stack Exchange Politics for lack of a more suitable forum. Something like Stack Exchange civil service would be more fitting.

The question is not about the logistics of delivery. The question is if current financial instruments are sufficient to implement this.

The regulation says, freely translated from Swedish:

information of a propellant exhaust of greenhouse gases over the life cycle, which fossil raw materials or renewable raw materials that the propellant consists of and the country of origin of the raw materials

(Swedish original: "information om ett drivmedels utsläpp av växthusgaser över livscykeln, vilka fossila råvaror eller förnybara råvaror som ingår i drivmedlet och råvarornas ursprungsland")

Of further importance is also the timing piece:

the information is regarding historical data about the propellant being sold and not up to date data about the propellant actually being provided at the time of purchase

(Swedish original: "informationen avser historiska data om det drivmedel som saluförs och inte aktuella data om det drivmedel som faktiskt erbjuds vid köptillfället")

  • Shouldn't the "How" be addressed in the law itself? – Sjoerd Oct 2 at 19:14
  • @Sjoerd: His "how" refers to his alternative proposal, not to what's in the law. – Fizz Oct 2 at 19:20
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    @Fizz Oh, so are they asking how you'd write a law to let consumers choose the origin of their petroleum? Is that on topic? – divibisan Oct 2 at 19:22
  • @divibisan: I'm not sure. It might be "primarily opinion based" if there are no useful examples or notable proposals already out there in this regard. – Fizz Oct 2 at 19:27
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    Do Swedish electricity consumers get to choose what kind of electricity they want or do they get to choose what kind of electricity their provider buys and then sells to the national grid? Does Sweden have multiple national grids for delivery? The situation is similar here - petrol stations have a single tank per grade of fuel (typically), so its going to boil down to "Unleaded 98 (origin includes: Saudi Arabia, Norway, United Kingdom" style labelling on advertising because stocks are going to get mixed. – Moo Oct 3 at 22:23
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The obvious answer is simple, but tedious and somewhat expensive. The higher costs will be passed on to customers.

Establish traceability at the batch level for petroleum, and restrict mixing of batches.

This method still relies on the seller to correctly label the product being sold. But the traceability can be audited. It might also be possible to test the final product to verify that certain markers in the final product match markers in the alleged source location. The markers might be natural or added. For example, the atomic masses of natural human hormones are subtly different from the atomic masses of artificial hormones that are derived from plant-based materials. These differences are used in sophisticated tests for Performance Enhancing Drugs.

Restrictions of this sort are already in place for many kinds of oil: olive oil, grapeseed oil, canola oil, et cetera. This is how you can be confident that your organic Greek extra virgin olive oil is from a first pressing of olives from certified-organic farms in Greece. In the case of food-grade oils, this is mostly achieved by having separate supply chains for oils from different sources, and small containers for storing the products.

Restrictions of a similar sort are also used by pipelines. Some pipelines carry different fuels at different times. They can use a "pig" to separate the batches. I do not know how much cleaning they do of the pipeline between batches.

Restricting mixing of batches could cause serious difficulties for refiners. Any particular source of crude oil might not be perfect for making a particular fuel. By mixing crudes from various sources, refiners can get better yields.

Also, tests that rely on natural markers might be invalidated by refining processes the remove or modify the markers.

As Moo commented, fuel retailers are not currently set up to keep batches separate. Separation could be achieved, but it would involve both capital expense and operating hassles. Instead of having one tank for each grade of fuel, the retailer would need to split their tanks. When switching between sources, the retailer would need to wait for a tank to be completely emptied, then have that tank more-or-less filled. And the retailer would need to have a way to automatically switch between tanks, and display the source of the fuel in the tank currently being used.

If these distinctions matter to customers, a refiner could market new brands of fuel that are guaranteed to be from certain source(s).

  • Thanks for the information but the question is really about if future combustibles can be bought when filling up with existing financial instruments. It will not require separation of batches nor traceability. That would be too expensive. – David Jonsson Oct 16 at 18:33
  • Where can I read more about atomic masses of natural vs. artificial plant based hormones? – David Jonsson Oct 16 at 18:34
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We could look at how similar regulations were addressed in practice in other countries. In 1986 California passed Proposition 65, which required putting a warning on products if they contain chemicals on the Proposition 65 list and the amount of exposure caused by the product is not within defined safety limits:

WARNING: This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.

Obviously tracing all the chemicals that go into your products is difficult, so many businesses chose to simply slap a warning on every single product:

The law has also been criticized for causing "over-warning" or "meaningless warnings," and this risk has been recognized by a California court. There is no penalty for posting an unnecessary warning sign, and to the extent that warnings are vague or overused, they may not communicate much information to the end user.

Therefore the most likely outcome in Sweden's case is that each petrol station will print a list of every possible country from which their gasoline could come from, instead of bothering to investigate the source for each batch. If I'm reading the regulation correctly, there isn't a penalty for overstating the number of countries.

  • Downvoters care to explain? – JonathanReez Supports Monica Oct 4 at 5:39
  • "This petrol comes from X, Y and Z" would be inaccurate if your petrol only came from Z. "This petrol may come from X, Y or Z" would probably not fulfil the legal requirements. It's not a warning that something might happen, it's a statement that it does. "This coffee might be fair trade" is useful nowhere. – user253751 Oct 4 at 16:18
  • @immibis "as far as we know, this petroleum comes from X, Y, Z, G, A, C. Exact proportions are unknown due to intermixing of batches". Legally speaking that's an accurate statement. Sweden would have to come up with a more stringent rule than what's currently on the books, if they want the specifics. Again, see how businesses solved the issue of Proposition 65. – JonathanReez Supports Monica Oct 4 at 16:20
  • Thanks for a relevant parallel. The regulators have to counteract overlabelling. I would say we have overlabelling when it comes to presence of peanuts. This risk favors determination through consumer decision. – David Jonsson Oct 12 at 10:54
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    @immibis: A producer could always throw in a drop of oil from X,Y and Z, and then top up the tanker with whatever is available. That makes the statement even more useless, yet it's legally bulletproof. But in the end the problem is still overregulation. – MSalters Oct 18 at 15:31

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