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  • Allison Stalker

EPA Proposes Cleaner Fuel and Emission Standards for Cars

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

On March 29, 2013 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a new proposed rule created to reduce air pollution from passenger cars and trucks. According to the EPA News Release, the proposed standards will “significantly reduce harmful pollution, prevent thousands of premature deaths and illnesses, while also enabling efficiency improvements in the cars and trucks we drive”. These Tier 3 standards would begin in 2017 and set new vehicle emissions standards and lower the sulfur content of gasoline.


The standards would require a reduction in sulfur levels of gasoline to 10 parts per million by 2017. This is a 60% reduction of current levels. Because removing sulfur allows a vehicle’s catalyst to work more efficiently, more stringent emissions standards would be attainable. Lower sulfur gasoline would also allow for lower cost technologies that would improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


Aside from lower the sulfur content of gasoline, the proposed rule will also reduce “emissions of a range of harmful pollutants that can cause premature death and respiratory illnesses, 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 proposed rule was created with input from representatives of the auto industry, the oil and gas industry, environmental organizations, consumer advocacy organizations and public health organizations. The EPA estimates that for every dollar spent to meet the standards, seven dollars in health benefits will be created. They also estimate that the standards will cost less than a penny per gallon of gasoline on overage and about $130 per vehicle in 2025.


According to the EPA, the Tier 3 standards would prevent annually:

  • Between 820 and 2,400 premature deaths

  • 3,200 hospital admissions and asthma-related emergency room visits

  • 22,000 asthma exacerbations

  • 23,000 upper and lower respiratory symptoms in children

  • 1.8 million lost school days, work days and minor-restricted activities

Paul Billings, the Senior Vice President of the American Lung Association stated that “Pollution from cars, light trucks, and SUVs kills and makes people sick. Stronger standards that lower sulfur levels in gasoline and cut toxic tailpipe pollutants will pave the way to a healthier future. Using lower sulfur gasoline in cars currently on the road will reduce as much pollution as taking 33 million cars off the road. Passenger vehicles are major sources of ozone and particle pollution that pose serious threats to public health. This pollution triggers asthma attacks, worsens lung and heart health and can even lead to early death. Children, the elderly and those with chronic lung and heart health problems are most vulnerable to traffic-related pollution.”


The standards were created in a similar fashion as the Tier 2 program, finalized in 2000. This program was successful in reducing gasoline sulfur reductions by up to 90% and allowed for the use of new emission control technologies without serious negative impacts on the refining industry.


”I applaud President Obama and the EPA for issuing this new rule, which is a significant step forward in reducing air pollution from vehicles. This rule means cleaner cars and cleaner fuels, which in turn means healthier communities across the country,” said Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. ”This common sense regulation is a victory for a cost-effective and sensible way to clean our air.”


More detailed information on the rule can be found here.


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