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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized new standards on sulfur in gasoline used in cars and trucks. The standards will require lower sulfur content in liquid fuels used in the transportation sector, which will cut smog and air pollution. EPA says the standards will "significantly reduce motor vehicle emissions, including nitrogen oxides (NOX), volatile organic compounds (VOC), direct particulate matter (PM2.5), carbon monoxide (CO) and air toxics." They will also allow existing and new vehicles to meet tighter air quality standards.

The "Tier 3" standards will take effect in 2017. They require sulfur levels in gasoline to drop from 30 parts per million (ppm) to 10 ppm. They follow on EPA's Tier 2 standards that were finalized in 2000, which EPA credits for helping to reduce sulfur from gasoline by 90% at little cost to the refining industry.

EPA argues that Tier 3 standards will be similarly beneficial. It projects the program will "cost less than a penny per gallon of gasoline, and about $72 per vehicle." By 2030, as a whole, the program will cost about $1.5 billion, but will create health benefits valued at between $6.7 and $19 billion. EPA estimates that by 2030, the Tier 3 standards will also avoid between 770 and 2,200 premature deaths.

The oil and gas industry dispute those claims and argue that the new standards are costly and unnecessary. The American Petroleum Institute issued a statement that said the standards will cost $10 billion in investments and $2.4 billion in annual compliance costs. They also argue that the environmental benefits will be negligible, and that EPA has issued a timeline that is too ambitious.


Written by James Burgess at