Fuel/emissions standards issued for passenger vehicles
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March 06, 2014
Fuel/emissions standards issued for passenger vehicles

The American Petroleum Institute (API) says EPA’s final Tier 3 emissions and fuel standards for passenger cars and trucks will increase the compliance cost of gasoline produced by between 6 and 9 cents per gallon.  The EPA, on the other hand, claims the cost of gasoline for the public will increase by less than 1 cent per gallon once the standards are fully in place.  The Agency adds that industry’s complaint that fuel costs will far exceed the Agency’s estimate is old news. 

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Specifically, in 2000, when the EPA introduced its Tier 2 standards, industry asserted that companies would be forced out of business and fuel shortages would result.  Now the Agency reminds us that the Tier 2 program was a “success and resulted in gasoline sulfur reductions of up to 90 percent and enabled the use of new emission control technologies in cars and trucks with no serious negative impacts on the refining industry.”

Sulfur content

Under the rule, the sulfur content of gasoline must be reduced from the current 30 parts per million (ppm) average to 10 ppm average.  According to the Agency, this reduction will lead to two linked benefits—increased effectiveness of emissions control equipment for both new and existing vehicles and lower emissions of pollutants of concern, primarily NOx, PM, and VOCs. 

The tailpipe standards will be phased in according to vehicle class.  Other “flexibilities” include credits for early compliance and the ability to offset some higher-emitting vehicles with “extra-clean” models.   The EPA is also allowing more lead time for small businesses and small volume manufacturers as well as a hardship provision that allows for additional time to comply if a manufacturer cannot meet requirements after a good-faith effort and would face severe economic hardship without the additional lead time.

The Agency also intends for the standards to harmonize with California’s low emission vehicle (LEV) program, thus creating a federal vehicle emissions program that will allow automakers to sell the same vehicles in all 50 states.  Compliance with the federal rule would be required for the 2017 to 2025 period, matching the time frame for EPA’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards for light-duty vehicles. 

Tailpipe standards

The tailpipe standards apply to all light-duty vehicles and some heavy-duty vehicles and cover emissions of PM and NOx and nonmethane organic gases (presented as NMOG+NOX).  Compared to current standards, the NMOG and NOx tailpipe standards for light-duty vehicles represent approximately an 80 percent reduction from today’s fleet average; the new PM standards represent a 70 percent reduction per vehicle.  Heavy-duty tailpipe standards represent about a 60 percent reduction in both fleet average NMOG+NOX and per-vehicle PM standards.  The EPA is also extending the regulatory useful life period during which the standards apply from 120,000 miles to 150,000 miles.

Evaporative standards

Evaporative emissions are gasoline vapor emissions released when a vehicle is in operation, when it is parked, and when it is being refueled.  Evaporative and refueling emissions constitute 30 percent to 40 percent of the summer on-highway mobile source hydrocarbon inventory. 

The new standards are about 50 percent more stringent than the current standards and apply to all light-duty and on-road gasoline-powered heavy-duty vehicles. As with the tailpipe standards, the evaporative emissions standards include phase-in flexibilities, credit and allowance programs, and more lead time and a hardship provision for small businesses and small volume manufacturers. Again, the EPA is extending the regulatory useful life period during which the standards apply from 120,000 miles to 150,000 miles.

The EPA expects that the final standards will provide up to $13 in health benefits for every $1 spent on compliance.  The API counters that the standards will provide “negligible, if any, environmental benefits” and that air quality would continue to improve under the existing standards and without additional cost.

The new standards

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