Friday, March 29, 2013

The EPA's New Tier 3 Standards Offer Environmental, Economic and Employment Benefits

The Obama administration has unveiled a proposal that will benefit the environment and the economy. The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) historic new rules, known as the Tier 3 standards, will reduce sulfur in gasoline and tighten car and truck emission standards. The rule is still undergoing a White House budget office review, but it is expected to come into effect nationwide in 2017, except for California where it is already in place.

The new rule is part of a global trend that will bring US sulfur content in gasoline closer to current norms. Tier 3 will see a 60 percent reduction in the sulfur content of gas which translates to content reductions from 30 parts per million (ppm) down  to 10 ppm.

Tier 3 standards will also reduce vehicular emissions including nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and volatile organic compounds. The rule is expected to reduce nitrogen oxides by as much as 80 percent, which would eliminate 260,000 tons of the pollutant, or the equivalent of taking 33 million cars off the roads.

"We know of no other air pollution control strategy that can achieve such substantial, cost-effective and immediate emission reductions," said Bill Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies.

According to the EPA by 2025, the new clean air regulations may result in tiny cost increases at the pump (one penny per gallon) and in the price of new cars ($130 per vehicle). However, the agency points to the tremendously valuable health benefits which are many times greater than the nominal costs.

According to a Navigant Economics Study these health benefits will have an estimated value of $5 to $6 billion annually by 2020, and $10 to $11 billion annually by 2030.

“The path from a car’s tailpipe to our lungs is surprisingly short, and more than one in three Americans live in areas where air pollution levels exceed at least one federal limit,” said Michelle Robinson, director of UCS’s clean vehicles program. “Today’s proposal is a common-sense step that will protect our health while growing our economy.”

Predictably the oil industry and their Republican minions tried to get the EPA to delay its ruling. The American Petroleum Institute resisted the move through obfuscation by saying that Tier 3 standards will cost consumers an additional 6 to 9 cents a gallon. The real reason for their resistance may be the fact that Big Oil does not want to invest the $90 billion required to secure compliance.

Quoting an anonymous senior administration official, The Huffington Post said that only 16 of 111 refineries would need to invest in major equipment to meet the new standards. Of the remaining refineries, 29 already are meeting the standards because they are selling cleaner fuel in California or other countries, and 66 would have to make modifications.

The new rule has garnered diverse support from health groups, consumer advocacy organizations  labor unions, as well as environmentalists.

“The chorus of support for these new standards is as widespread as it is unprecedented,” said Robinson. “Obviously, oil companies work for their own best interests, but when it comes to Tier 3, it’s only a solo act.”

The support of one group in particular stands out as especially significant. The new standards have earned an endorsement from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) who applauding the government's efforts to "clean the air" and "create jobs."

In addition to direct economic benefits, the Navigant study cited above also found that the Tier 3 program will create almost 5,300 permanent jobs in the operation and maintenance of new refining equipment, as well as more than 24,000 new jobs over a three year period for equipment installation at US refineries.

© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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