Obama's New Gas Rules Will Clean the Air and Mess Up Trucking Industry, Some Say

by Jana Ritter - Published: 3/29/2013

Today's headline story across the US: The Obama administration is pushing ahead with a plan to require cleaner gasoline as a way to reduce smog, with the Environmental Protection Agency releasing preliminary rules to reduce sulfur in gas.


The rules would take effect in 2017, and their full impact would be realized a decade later, according to the EPA. An EPA study said the new rule could save 2.000 lives a year and cut back on childhood asthma. "We estimate the rule will reduce smog by 30%" when fully implemented, said Bill Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, which represents air quality control agencies around the country.

While nobody can argue about the benefits of cleaner air, there are other points of contentions brewing about what these tougher rules will cost at the fuel pump. Refinery and oil and gas industry groups are say that such a move would force motorists to pay nearly 10 cents more per gallon and base their conclusion on a study by energy consulting firm, Baker & O'Brien. Although the White House argues the move would add less than a penny a gallon, basing their figures on an EPA study, representatives of the energy industry still disagree.

"There is a tsunami of federal regulations coming out of the EPA that could put upward pressure on gasoline prices," said Bob Greco, a director at the American Petroleum Institute.

The rule targets sulfur, which occurs naturally in crude oil. The more sulfur, the less efficiently a car runs. The rule would force refineries to reduce sulfur content by more than 60% to 10 parts per million from 30 parts per million, the EPA said. Even more promising, the National Association of Clean Air Agencies estimates the rule would have the same effect as taking 33 million cars off the roads.  But some are saying that the rule will also drive many commercial trucking companies off the road and ultimately out of business.

At a town hall organized by Assemblyman Dan Logue (R-Linda) Thursday evening, an angry small business owner vented his view, saying that new diesel regulations will ruin the North State agriculture and trucking industries. Others agreed, saying new diesel emissions regulations will cost jobs, raise prices on consumers, and put many small business owners out of business. 

Randy McLaughlin, owner of Old Durham Wood, an orchard removal specialist, says he's already let go of two workers and retired two trucks that weren't in compliance with standards that went into effect last week.  He says, "Two of my trucks have been taken out of service in order for me to stay in compliance."  He adds that when the next round of even more strict standards are rolled out in 2014, more small business owners won't be able to afford to keep up.  He says, "When those deadlines pass, those single truck owners will be out of business."

However, EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe said in a statement, “Today's proposed standards -- which will save thousands of lives and protect the most vulnerable -- are the next step in our work to protect public health and will provide the automotive industry with the certainty they need to offer the same car models in all 50 states.”