At the end of March, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a proposed rule that requires gasoline to have only 10 parts per million (ppm) of sulfur by 2017. This is a 60 percent cut from the current requirement of 30 ppm. The reduction would bring all gasoline in the nation into conformity with California standards.

The EPA argument for the new standards is they will “slash emissions of a range of harmful pollutants that can cause premature death and respiratory illnesses, including reducing smog-forming volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides by 80 percent, establish a 70 percent tighter particulate matter standard, and reduce fuel vapor emissions to near zero. The proposal is expected to also reduce vehicle emissions of toxic air pollutants, such as benzene and 1,3-butadiene, by up to 40 percent.” The health benefits are tied to the expectation that reductions in sulfur levels in gasoline will improve the efficiency of catalytic converters.

Estimated costs for implementation differ. EPA estimates the change will add one cent to gasoline costs. The American Petroleum Institute estimates the cost will be as high as 9 cents per gallon for refinery upgrades and increased annual operating costs. EPA estimates that 20 of the 111 U.S. refineries can currently meet the standards, 66 can attain the level with only modest changes, and 16 would require major overhauls.

To view the text of the rule go to www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID # EPA-HQ-OAR-2011-0135. comments on the proposed rule can be made at the same web site or by email to A-and-R-Docket@epa.gov.

Last 5 posts by Edie Allison

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