The Obama Administration has decided to once again tinker with the chemical composition of gasoline with a rule that would force another reduction in the sulfur level of gasoline by two-thirds. The alleged justification is clean air and protecting the catalytic converters on cars and trucks. EPA claims that this is a minor change that will only add a penny to the cost of gasoline. Refiners claim that it will add a dime. You don’t have to be an engineer to guess which estimate is closer to the reality.
The Obama Administrations “green energy” agenda, which has wasted hundreds of billions of dollars without achieving its objectives, is predicated on moving the nation off of oil. Since gasoline and diesel fuel are the major products made from oil, the Administration is really pursuing an anti-mobility agenda.
The rationale being used for EPA’s proposed sulfur rule is bogus. Each year the air gets cleaner and smog levels lower. For almost two decades the major source of air pollution has been stationery sources, not mobile ones. The increasingly stringent tailpipe standards already imposed by this Administration ensure that mobile sources are a shrinking source of emissions that lead to smog.
By its own admission, two-thirds of the nation is in ozone attainment. That being the case, how can the Agency justify a national approach for the remaining one-third? Improving air quality in non-attainment areas should be state and site specific. That would be a rational, cost-effective approach.
The second alleged objective is to protect catalytic converters on cars and trucks from being poisoned by sulfur. It is true that high levels of sulfur do impair the catalytic converters ability to control tailpipe emissions. However, in the late 1990s, EPA issued a regulation setting the sulfur level 40% below that shown by research to protect catalyst integrity. In doing so, EPA imposed a cost on refiners that was 3-4 times greater than necessary. Eventually those costs are borne by the motoring public in the form of higher prices. The proposed rule will have the same effect on prices.
Over the past few years, we have seen several refineries close because they could not earn an adequate return. This rule combined with the refinery MACT proposal could also have the effect of causing more refineries to close, leading to greater imports of higher priced gasoline and diesel from Europe.
Since the market has not responded to the Obama Administration’s push to get more people to buy cars like the Volt and Leaf, it appears to be responding with actions to drive up the cost of using gasoline and diesel to make its preferred uneconomic alternatives look more attractive.