EPA Rule Would Cut Smog-Causing Sulfur in Gas

11:50 AM, Mar 29, 2013   |    comments
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(Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Jayne O'Donnell USA TODAY

The Environmental Protection Agency plans to propose new rules today that will require lower-sulfur fuels to help reduce smog-causing emissions from cars and trucks.

The long-awaited rule is supported by automakers. They say the fuels are needed so their newer catalytic converters can better scrub smog-causing particles out of vehicle emissions.

"Our cleaner cars will need even cleaner fuels like those already sold across Europe and Asia, and we are pleased EPA is proposing cleaner fuels," said Gloria Bergquist of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

But the oil industry opposes lowering the sulfur content of fuel, which it says it's too costly and could increase the cost of gasoline production by up to nine cents per gallon, according to the American Petroleum Institute. API says the rule could have the opposite effect of that intended.

"Implementing the new requirements would actually increase greenhouse gas emissions because of the energy-intensive equipment required to comply," says API's Bob Greco.

The increase in the price of gasoline really should be just one cent a gallon, says a study by Navigant Economics and cited by the environmental group Union of Concerned Scientists.

UCS called the proposal a "huge step forward toward cleaning our country's air and creating jobs."

"The path from a car's tailpipe to our lungs is surprisingly short, and more than 1 in 3 Americans live in areas where air pollution levels exceed at least one federal limit," said Michelle Robinson, director of UCS's Clean Vehicles program.

Cleaner fuels are needed to prevent sulfur from disabling newer engine technologies automakers are planning to meet tougher greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy rules beginning in 2017, says Bergquist.

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