Refiners must do their part for clean air, emission rules
Automakers are telling regulators at the EPA it's OK to impose stricter emission standards, which the industry says it is willing to meet if refiners reduce the sulfur in gasoline.
But the American Petroleum Institute says refiners are unwilling to make the multimillion-dollar refinery investments needed to produce the cleaner gasoline automakers say they need to get the job done -- a change the API says has not yet proved to be needed and could add as much as nine cents to the price of a gallon of gasoline.
In the interests of cleaner air -- and simplifying compliance with the nation's tailpipe emissions standards -- refiners need to make the investments.
Since the Clean Air Act became law in 1970, automakers have engineered and built vehicles to comply with federal emission standards. At times the industry has balked, but eventually the changes were made.
Since 1990, automakers have needed to double-certify any models sold in California to make sure they meet federal standards as well as the tougher ones imposed by the California Air Resources Board.
Now California has updated its Low Emission Vehicle rules, which are scheduled to be phased in during the 2015 to 2025 model years. Ultimately, automakers will be required to cut nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons to 0.03 grams per mile, a 70 percent reduction from 2008 levels. That will require new hardware.
To some, it may seem like the tail wagging the dog if the EPA proposes new national vehicle emission standards based on California's rules. But for automakers, having similar rules could simplify the design and manufacture of gasoline-powered light vehicles and could make it unnecessary, or at least easier, to certify every model twice.
It won't resolve every issue because CARB still plans to require the industry to sell a certain percentage of zero-emission vehicles in California.
But reducing the sulfur in gasoline would be a positive step on several fronts.