EPA tailpipe standards could cost drivers more at the pump

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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The Obama administration’s new push to clean up pollution from tailpipe emissions could mean drivers will begin paying more at the gas pump.

The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to announce new tailpipe emissions standards on Friday that require oil refiners to cut the amount of sulfur in gasoline and force automakers to use technologies that will cut tailpipe emissions.

The new standards, called Tier 3 standards, aim to reduce the amount of sulfur in gasoline by more than 60 percent and reduce the amount of nitrogen oxides in gasoline by 80 percent. The rule could boost gas prices by as much as 9 cents, depending on the estimate.

One analysis done for the American Petroleum Institute, an oil and natural gas industry advocacy group, found that the new regulations would increase prices as high as 9 cents per gallon. However, that could rise dramatically to 25 cents per gallon if the EPA adds another vapor pressure reduction regulation, according to API.

“The Obama administration cannot be more out of touch. With hard-pressed families already struggling to afford each fill-up, Congress needs to take a hard look at any new EPA regulation that may raise the price at the pump,” said Kentucky Republican Rep. Ed Whitfield.

Environmental groups have touted the public health benefits of the expected announcement.

“These common-sense standards will save lives, save money and clean up our air — all at a minimal cost,” said Luke Tonachel, senior vehicles analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Big Oil companies want us to believe these benefits aren’t worth it. But that’s because they care about profits above all else.”

According to the EPA, the new standards will only raise gasoline prices by less than a penny per gallon and save more than $10 billion annually in health costs by 2030.

“Implementing the new requirements would actually increase greenhouse gas emissions because of the energy-intensive equipment required to comply,” said API downstream group director Bob Greco. “We urge the administration to bring common sense back into the regulatory process. Unnecessary regulations just mean higher costs and lost jobs.”

The refining industry has pushed back on the proposed standards, arguing that refiners are already burdened by numerous regulations. According to the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, refiners have already achieved a 90 percent reduction in sulfur levels and the new standards will cost them another $10 billion in new infrastructure as well as $2.4 billion annually in operating costs.

“The ignored consequences of Tier 3 include importing more foreign energy, increasing our trade deficit, and reducing our energy security,” said Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter. “This move signals a frightening flood of new rules under the potential Gina McCarthy led EPA and  represents one of a litany of likely regulations that require transparency to justify both the costs and the benefits.”

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