Cracking down on gasoline: EPA announces tough new pollution rule

The new regulations will significantly lower sulfur emissions

Topics: Environmental Protection Agency, Gasoline, emissions, public health, Air pollution, Smog, , ,

You can’t always talk about “major new regulations” with sincere enthusiasm, but a new rule released Monday by the EPA, which will require oil companies to strip sulfur from gasoline, is being celebrated as a significant step toward reducing automobile pollution.

The oil industry, predictably, isn’t happy — but it’s in the minority. As Gov. Gary R. Herbert of Utah, a conservative Republican, told the New York Times, “Dirty air is not a partisan issue.”

The Times explains the significance of the new regulations, both in terms of climate change and public health:



When burned in gasoline, sulfur blocks pollution-control equipment in vehicle engines, which increases tailpipe emissions linked to lung disease, asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, aggravated heart disease and premature births and deaths. Proponents of the rule say it will be President Obama’s most significant public health achievement in his second term, but opponents, chiefly oil refiners, say it is unnecessarily costly and an unfair burden on them.

The E.P.A. estimates that the new rule will drastically reduce soot and smog in the United States, and thus rates of diseases associated with those pollutants, while slightly raising the price of both gasoline and cars. The rule will require oil refiners to install expensive new equipment to clean sulfur out of gasoline and force automakers to install new, cleaner-burning engine technology.

E.P.A. officials estimate that the new regulation will raise the cost of gasoline by about two-thirds of one cent per gallon and add about $75 to the sticker price of cars. But oil refiners say that it will cost their industry $10 billion and raise gasoline costs by up to 9 cents per gallon.

The E.P.A.’s studies conclude that by 2030, the cleaner-burning gasoline will yield between $6.7 billion and $19 billion annually in economic benefits by saving lives and preventing missed work and school days due to illness. The agency estimates that, annually, the new rule will prevent between 770 and 2,000 premature deaths; 2,200 hospital admissions and asthma-related emergency room visits; 19,000 asthma attacks, 30,000 cases of symptoms of respiratory symptoms in children, and 1.4 million lost school and work days.

Lindsay Abrams

Lindsay Abrams is a staff writer at Salon, reporting on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email labrams@salon.com.

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