Sets the contents of the Accept-Encoding: header sent in an HTTP request, and enables decoding of a response when a Content-Encoding: header is received. Three encodings are supported: identity, which does nothing, deflate which requests the server to compress its response using the zlib algorithm, and gzip which requests the gzip algorithm. If a zero-length string is set, then an Accept-Encoding: header containing all supported encodings is sent.
This is a request, not an order; the server may or may not do it. This option must be set (to any non-NULL value) or else any unsolicited encoding done by the server is ignored. See the special file lib/README.encoding for details.
Incidentally, unless there is a compelling reason not to do so, I would use php's curl functions rather than shelling out and running the cURL binary.