Will Proposed EPA Emissions Standards Raise Gas Prices?

By: CBS News (Posted by Josh Mabry)
By: CBS News (Posted by Josh Mabry)

(CBS News) The Obama administration is set to unveil new rules Friday. They're designed to help make the air cleaner. They would cut gasoline emissions, but critics warn we'll be paying for them at the pump.

The oil industry says the proposed regulations would increase the price of gas, but clean air advocates say it would be like taking more than 30 million cars off the nation's roads.

Bill Becker, of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, said, "It is the single most important air pollution control strategy that President Obama will likely offer in his second term as president."

The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to announce the proposed rules on Friday. The goal is to cut down on pollution by reducing the amount of sulfur in gasoline by two-thirds.

But there's strong resistance from the oil industry. Bob Greco, of the American Petroleum Institute, told CBS News, "We feel this rule has not been justified, but will have a significant cost on the refining industry. And ultimately, put upward pressure on gasoline prices at a time when our economy doesn't need that."

Republicans in Congress -- as well as some Democrats -- have also pushed back against the effort to change the standards. And it could be years before the proposal actually takes effect.

But supporters say that if, and when, it does, it'll be a game-changer. Becker said, "We know of no other air pollution strategy that can achieve as substantial, as cost-effective, and as immediate emission reductions as this strategy."

Opponents say they don't think it'll make a difference, pointing out that oil producers have already cut gasoline sulfur by 90 percent since 2004. Greco said, "We don't think it will have any environmental impact."

There's also disagreement on how much it will cost drivers.

"They won't notice it," Becker said.

Greco has a different view: "This would be a very difficult pill to swallow."

The White House says the price of gas will go up less than a penny, but the oil industry says it could rise as much as 9 cents a gallon. The new regulations won't take effect for at least another four years. White House officials say if they do take effect, each year they could save 2,400 lives and help 23,000 children avoid respiratory ailments.

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