New fuel and car standards from the Environmental Protection Agency could reduce smog-forming volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides by 80 percent.

EPA Proposes ‘Achievable’ Cleaner Fuels and Cars Standard

April 4, 2013
EPA claims its proposed standards for cars and gasoline will cost relatively little but will slash air pollution and provide extensive health benefits.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed what it's calling “sensible” standards for cars and gasoline that significantly will reduce pollution and prevent thousands of premature deaths and illnesses, while also enabling efficiency improvements in our cars and trucks.

EPA’s cleaner fuels and cars standards, created with input from auto manufacturers, refiners and states, are an important component of the administration’s national program for clean cars and trucks. The program also includes historic fuel efficiency standards. Once fully in place, the standards will help avoid up to 2,400 premature deaths per year and 23,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children, according to EPA.

“The Obama administration has taken a series of steps to reinvigorate the auto industry and ensure that the cars of tomorrow are cleaner, more efficient and saving drivers money at the pump and these common-sense cleaner fuels and cars standards are another example of how we can protect the environment and public health in an affordable and practical way,” said EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe. “[The] proposed standards – which will save thousands of lives and protect the most vulnerable -- are the next step in our work to protect public health and will provide the automotive industry with the certainty they need to offer the same car models in all 50 states.”

Following a proven systems approach that addresses vehicles and fuels as an integrated system, the proposal will slash emissions of a range of harmful pollutants, 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 also will reduce vehicle emissions of toxic air pollutants, such as benzene and 1,3-butadiene, by up to 40 percent.

EPA's Long-Term Estimates Focus on 2030

By 2030, EPA estimates that the proposed cleaner fuels and cars program annually will prevent up to 2,400 premature deaths, 23,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children, 3,200 hospital admissions and asthma-related emergency room visits and 1.8 million lost school days, work days and days when activities would be restricted due to air pollution.

Total health-related benefits in 2030 will be between $8 and $23 billion annually. The program also would reduce exposure to pollution near roads. More than 50 million people live, work or go to school in close proximity to high-traffic roadways, and the average American spends more than one hour traveling along roads each day.

Based on initial feedback from stakeholders and a thorough rulemaking process, EPA’s proposal is estimated to provide up to $7 in health benefits for every dollar spent to meet the standards. The proposed sulfur standards will cost refineries less than a penny per gallon of gasoline on average once the standards are fully in place. The proposed vehicle standards will have an average cost of about $130 per vehicle in 2025. The proposal also includes flexibilities for small businesses, including hardship provisions and additional leadtime for compliance.

The proposed standards will reduce gasoline sulfur levels by more than 60 percent – down to 10 parts per million (ppm) in 2017. Reducing sulfur in gasoline enables vehicle emission control technologies to perform more efficiently. This means that vehicles built prior to the proposed standards will run cleaner on the new low-sulfur gas, providing significant and immediate benefits by reducing emissions from every gas-powered vehicle on the road.

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