The Environmental Protection Agency announced tough new rules Monday to lower sulfur emissions from U.S. gasoline in an effort to reduce smog and respiratory problems such as asthma and emphysema that it can cause.
The rules will require oil refineries to remove sulfur from gasoline, because sulfur increases tailpipe emissions by interfering with a vehicle's pollution-control equipment. Advocates welcomed the final rule for its public health benefit, but the U.S. oil industry has said it could increase their costs and gasoline prices.
"These standards are a win for public health, a win for our environment, and a win for our pocketbooks," EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in the announcement. Once fully in place by 2030, EPA estimates they will help avoid up to 2,000 premature deaths each year and 50,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children, saving between $6.7 billion and $19 billion annually in health-care costs.
The EPA said the rules, which will slash gasoline sulfur levels by more than 60%, will costs less than a penny per gallon of gasoline and add $72 to the average cost of a vehicle once fully implemented in 2025. EPA said lower-sulfur gasoline will reduce pollution as much as taking 33 million cars off the road.
The oil industry has said removing sulfur from gasoline requires costly new technology and could raise gasoline costs up to 9 cents per gallon. McCarthy said Monday that industry cost estimates are based on the EPA's proposed 2013 rules -- not the final ones that give oil refineries more time, as many as six years, to comply.
The EPA has been working on cleaner gasoline standards for years, in response to President Obama's 2010 request to do so. To develop them, the agency worked with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, an industry group that represents General Motors, Ford and Toyota and does not oppose the rules. The rules will be implemented at the same time as EPA's stricter limits on greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks.
"The standards will reduce harmful air pollutants, including nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds. These pollutants are important precursors of ozone pollution and particle pollution," Albert A. Rizzo, lead pulmunologist for Christiana Care Health System in Newark, Del.