The Environmental Protection Agency is today putting in place a new rule to drastically cut sulfur from gasoline, a measure it says will ultimately save lives, the New York Times reports. Sulfur in gasoline renders vehicle pollution control systems less effective, boosting smog-causing emissions associated with heart and lung disease, among other health concerns. The plan would cut the sulfur content in gas roughly 67% as of 2017, to 10 parts per million from 30 parts per million. Oil refiners are fighting the measure, which would force them to install pricy new sulfur-cleaning equipment. Supporters see it as President Obama's "most significant public health achievement in his second term," per the Times.
The associated costs: The EPA says gas prices will inch up two-thirds of a cent per gallon, and new cars will cost an additional $75. Oil refiners, however, paint a far starker picture (one lobbyist for the industry literally laughed at the EPA's figures): a nine-cent-per-gallon rise in gas as the industry faces $10 billion in new costs. But the US economy as a whole would benefit, according to the EPA. In 2030, the plan's annual cost will be $1.5 billion, officials say, per the Detroit News, but saved lives and better worker health will generate an economic bump between $6.7 billion and $19 billion annually, they note. Some 10 years ago, gas contained 300 parts per million of sulfur, and the aforementioned lobbyist says stripping much of that last 10% out is no easy task. "They’re tough little buggers that don't want to come out. It's like getting the last little bit of red wine stain out of a white blouse."