Controversial EPA Regulations Helping Fuel Spike in Gasoline Prices: Agency Ignored National Research Council Report that Reformulated Gasoline Regulations Aimed at Reducing Air Pollution are Ineffective

Regulations recently implemented by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), that require one-third of the nation’s gasoline supply to be reformulated gasoline (RFG) ostensibly to reduce air pollution, are significantly contributing to a sudden increase in gasoline prices nationwide that is especially severe in the Midwest. The EPA issued these costly regulations this spring despite a May 1999 report from the National Research Council (NRC), an arm of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering, which concluded that RFG would do little to reduce air pollution, according to the National Center For Public Policy Research.

The EPA developed the RFG regulations pursuant to the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments which require the use of reformulated gasoline with oxygen additives in parts of the nation that the agency has designated as having excessive ozone — a major component of smog. The oxygen additives, RFG and Methyl Tertiary-Butyl Ether (MTBE), are supposed to lower the emissions of vehicle pollutants that contribute to the formation of smog. But the 1999 NRC study by a 12-member panel of scientists found that oxygen additives have only a minimal impact on reducing smog. Committee Chair William Chameides, Regents Professor of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, said that while RFG and MBTE "do reduce some pollutants from motor vehicle emissions, the oxygenates appear to have little impact on lowering ozone levels. Moreover, it is not possible to attribute a significant portion of past reductions in smog to the use of these gasoline additives."

Although the EPA funded the NRC study, the agency ignored the study’s conclusions and proceeded with its plans to implement the costly rules. Now, gasoline prices are rising so rapidly that Indiana suspended its 5% sales tax and the governors of Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan want a temporary waiver from the EPA RFG regulations. A report just prepared by the Congressional Research Service for Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Chairman of the House Science Committee, estimates that Midwestern consumers are paying an additional 50 cents per gallon of gasoline largely due to the RFG regulatory mandate.

"As usual, the EPA employs junk science to justify burdensome and costly regulations while ignoring the advice of sound science," says John Carlisle, director of the National Center’s Environmental Policy Task Force. "This time, the EPA’s flawed RFG regulations — which will do little to help the environment — are forcing Americans to pay millions of additional dollars for gasoline just as they are preparing to enjoy their summer vacation season. This is truly a new low for the EPA."

The Environmental Policy Task Force is a project of The National Center For Public Policy Research, a non-partisan, non-profit education foundation. To obtain a copy of the poll or to interview scientific experts, contact John Carlisle at The National Center For Public Policy Research at 202-507-6398 or [email protected].

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.