The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposed rules for cleaner-burning gasoline and more efficient car and truck engines are drawing predictable responses.
The Tier 3 Vehicle Emission and Fuel Standards Program would reduce the sulfur content allowed in gasoline and require vehicle manufacturers to improve engines to reduce emissions.
The EPA has described the rules as an extension of the Tier 2 standards rolled out beginning in 2000. Those rules, among other things, reduced gasoline sulfur levels to 30 parts per million, down from 300. The proposed new rules would drop that level to 10 parts per million.
Predictably, the proposal has drawn praise from environmental organizations and criticism from the oil and refining industries.
“These Tier 3 standards are absolutely necessary. They are absolutely the right thing to do,” said Jesse Prentice-Dunn, a policy analyst with the Sierra Club in Washington. “Right now, we have more than one in three Americans living where the air is sometimes unsafe to breathe. We've got record childhood asthma. Air pollution is causing a whole host of health issues. These standards will substantially reduce smog-forming pollution and dramatically reduce asthma attacks, premature deaths from air pollution, and it will make a big, big difference.”
The EPA said the rules would add about 1 cent per gallon to the cost of gasoline and add about $130 to the cost of new cars and trucks while annually preventing 820 to 2,400 premature deaths, 3,200 hospital admissions and asthma-related emergency room visits and 1.8 million days of lost time at school, work and minor activities.
The oil and gas industry said the EPA is exaggerating potential benefits and underestimating costs.
Patrick Kelley, the American Petroleum Institute's senior downstream policy adviser, called the proposal “hard to justify and potentially very harmful.”
“The massive refinery investments it would require could drive up the cost of making gasoline and weaken the nation's energy security without producing much, if any, environmental benefit,” he said during a conference call with reporters Tuesday.
Kelley said the new rules would cost the industry $10 billion, which would translate into a cost to consumers of 6 cents to 9 cents a gallon.
Janet Grothe, senior adviser for health safety and environment at Phillips 66 in Houston, said Phillips representatives have met with the EPA and others several times in recent years to discuss the proposed rules.
“We have been evaluating what changes would be necessary in our refineries to meet the more stringent sulfur standard,” she said. “The proposed standard of 10 ppm annual average would require capital investment in the majority of our U.S. refineries.”
But Prentice-Dunn dismissed the claims of significantly higher costs.
“It's the same tired old argument they've used time and time again,” he said. “What we've seen is numerous, credible studies showing that this would cost less than a penny per gallon and that this is a small price to pay for preventing childhood asthma and making sure we have clean air to breathe. I think more than anything this is the oil industry crying wolf yet again.”
Besides the proposed rules themselves, the oil and gas lobbyists said they are most concerned with the timing and the rule-making procedures. The API on Tuesday formally asked the EPA to allow a full 90 days for public comment before taking up the proposed rules.
The massive refinery investments it would require could drive up the cost of making gasoline and weaken the nation's energy security without producing much, if any, environmental benefit.”
American Petroleum Institute