The federal government’s tougher regulations on pollution might have consequences on prices at the gasoline pump. To meet the Clean Air Act, some areas might be required to use cleaner-burning fuels. That could make it tougher to get gasoline supplies where they need to be. And that could mean higher prices. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
The federal government’s tougher regulations on pollution might have consequences on prices at
the gasoline pump. To meet the Clean Air Act some areas might be required to use cleaner-
burning fuels. That could make it tougher to get gasoline supplies where they need to be. And
that could mean higher prices. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
The Environmental Protection Agency says 31 states are not complying with the Clean Air Act.
The EPA indicates tougher standards for ground-level ozone make many areas that didn’t know
they had a problem in violation of air pollution laws.
John Mooney is an environmental specialist with the EPA. He says the government used to
check for ozone pollution for short periods… but started monitoring for longer periods and found
more instances of high levels of ozone.
“The other issue is that we’re changing the number of the standard from 120 down to 80 parts-
per-billion. So, it’s a lower level that we’re looking at. And we think that’s more reflective of
the health effects that are being caused by this pollutant.”
Ground-level ozone aggravates asthma. People with lung diseases can find it hard to breathe.
And those who work outdoors are affected by the unhealthy air.
Ozone is created when factories and cars emit volatile organic compounds. That chemical stew is
affected by sunlight and ozone can form. Cities that have had high ozone levels have worked to
reduce emissions from businesses, encouraged car-pooling, made announcements asking people
not to use gas-powered mowers on high ozone days.
And… for some cities… part of the solution has been reformulated gasoline. It’s gas that’s
cleaner burning. Different formulations are used in different areas. And… gas formulas change
from winter to summer. Refineries and gasoline suppliers have to empty their tanks and pipelines
before switching. That makes gas supplies tight for a while and that drives the price up. We
asked the EPA’s John Mooney about that.
LG: We’ve got several cities with reformulated gasoline right now and that’s put a strain on the
distribution system nation-wide. If more cities have to start using reformulated gasoline and each
city has to have a different formulation, that’s going to further strain the distribution problem at a
time when gasoline prices are at an all time high.
JM: “We’re extremely sensitive to the infrastructure issue and the energy issue and are trying to
promote clean-burning fuels that have environmental impacts without significant economic
disruptions. Having fuel shortages and price spikes and things of that nature don’t contribute to
the success of our mission to improve public health. And so, we’re going to be tied into the fuel
distribution issues and we’re going to be working with the oil refiners to make sure that the fuels
programs that are ultimately decided upon operate without significant disruptions.”
Significant disruptions that could cause gasoline shortages and high prices.
Bob Slaughter is the President of NPRA, the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association. He
says the government needs to work closely with gasoline suppliers to make sure that efforts to
make the air easier to breathe don’t make problems for the economy of an area.
“You know, you have to be very careful that you don’t have so many fuels in certain areas that it
becomes difficult to re-supply if there are problems, say, with a refinery or a pipeline in a
For instance, in recent years a fire at a refinery at a bad time meant shortages and higher prices.
But… even with lots of cooperation between government and the gasoline suppliers, the added
burden of different types of reformulated gasoline to the fuel distribution system might mean
spikes in gas prices.
(road sound, gas station)
We asked some people buying gas if they were willing to pay more if it meant cleaner air…
VOXPOP (voice 1) “Well, the gas prices are high enough. Uh, am I willing? I suppose so if it’s
better for the environment.” (voice 2) “Well, I think the federal government regulates everything
way too much right now. I think they do have a lot of safeguards in place right now to lower the
emissions in a lot of vehicles. Why do we have to make further regulation to control that?”
(voice 3) “I mean, I hate to – I hate to pay more gas prices. I really do. But, I guess for cleaner
air, it might be worth it.” (voice 4) “I haven’t thought about it too much. I pay what they make
me pay. I don’t care.”
The EPA is giving states and cities three years to get their ground-level ozone pollution problems
below the government’s new standards.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.