Gasoline producers and automakers are at odds over fuel only this time it’s about sulfur levels instead of ethanol content.
Last Friday, the EPA proposed a rule that would see restrictions on sulfur levels in gasoline tightened across the country to essentially match standards in California.
Refiners say the rule could raise gas prices between six and eight cents per gallon, while clean air groups say it would only raise costs to the consumer by about one cent per gallon. The New York Times reports that the conflicting reports hinge on details in the rule that aren’t yet public.
SEE ALSO: Under the Hood: What is E85?
Gasoline in all states save California can currently contain 30 parts of sulfur per million and the proposed rule would limit that figure to 10. The rule has been ready for about 15 months, but was delayed to avoid arguments about gas prices during an election year.
If the proposal passes, it will be a big win for automakers because lower sulfur gasoline will allow companies to bring lean-burn gasoline engines used un Europe to the U.S.
In Europe, those engines produce tailpipe emissions beyond what current regulations allow. But automakers hope the lower sulfur levels would be sufficient for the more efficient engines to meet U.S. standards.
Those engines require complex emissions controls that are sensitive to sulfur, which builds up inside catalytic converters. Removing that sulfur requires a regenerative system that heats the catalyst where the sulfur accumulates — a process that taxes the engine and hurts efficiency.
The proposed standard would take effect on January 1, 2017, but before that can happen the EPA needs to open a public commentary period before deciding whether or not to make it final.