California Air Resources Board Orders World's Cleanest Burning Gasoline
SACRAMENTO – The California Air Resources (ARB), which already requires the world's lowest polluting cars and trucks, has adopted reformulation standards that will produce the world's cleanest burning gasoline, one of the biggest moves in recent years to significantly reduce urban smog by lowering emissions from both existing and future model cars.
The new ARB standards order changes to eight specifications of gasoline and are expected to make future blends 30-40 percent less smog forming than today's grades. The changes also will lower cancer risk from compounds such as benzene from by about 25 percent.
The cleaner gasoline is expected to boost gas prices by 10-16 cents per gallon, a cost which state officials said was more than offset by the health benefits from a huge cutback in emissions.
The new standards, which go into effect in 1996 to give refineries time to make necessary modifications, were ordered by the Air Resources Board after a marathon, two-day public hearing in Los Angeles that included comments from the oil industry, as well as automakers and environmental groups.
In all, the new standards for gasoline, based on ARB research as well as testing data from the auto industry and at least 19 oil companies, is expected to reduce emissions of smog-forming hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides by up to 180 tons a day, as well as reductions in sulfur dioxide by slightly more than 1,500 tons per day.
"This marks one of the biggest moves we can make for clean air," said ARB Chairwoman Jananne Sharpless. "Cleaner gasoline can take more pollution out of the air than many of our other programs combined because it reduces emissions from every car on the road at the same time.
"This is not a so-called alternative fuel," she continued. "It is cleaner burning gasoline of all grades for all cars, every day."
The ARB's "clean air recipe" for gasoline calls for limits on highly toxic benzene, caps on some hydrocarbons that are especially conducive to smog formation and standards to limit the evaporation of gasoline.
Additional changes requiring the use of oxygen-rich additives that could reduce up to 1,300 tons a day of carbon monoxide will be considered at another hearing December 12, 1991 in Sacramento.
Reformulation standards adopted last year require refiners to make gasoline that evaporates less, makes use of detergent additives to reduce carbon buildup in engines and that begins the final phase-out of remaining trace elements of lead. All were inexpensive changes that could be put in place easily without refinery modifications at a cost of less than a penny per gallon.
The newest standards, however, will require more extensive remodeling of some refineries with an estimated capital cost of about $2-$5 billion, or about 12-17 cents per gallon. Based on the American Automobile Association's estimate of driving costs, however, the ARB believes that the clean gas standards will add no more than a half-a-penny to the almost 38 cents per mile that the average motorist pays to drive 12,000 miles a year.
Also, in a cost-cutting move, the ARB standards allow refiners to meet the specifications by averaging their gasoline output over 90 days instead of meeting flat limits with every gallon -- which reduces expense without sacrificing clean air benefits. Also, small refiners (less than 55,000 barrels per year), will have an additional two years to meet the standards, which will help them lower their cost per gallon.
The new standards were strongly supported by car makers, including General Motors, Toyota and the Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association, who said that cleaner gasoline was vital to meeting strict tailpipe emission limits, also mandated by the Air Resources Board. Those standards require all new 1994 and newer model cars to be 50 to 85 percent less polluting than today's California cars, which are already the lowest polluting in the world.