New US auto fuel rules aim to cut soot, smog and toxic emissions

The Obama administration yesterday announced new fuel and automobile rules to cut soot, smog and toxic emissions, which it said would reduce asthma and heart attacks in the US.

The rules unveiled by the Environmental Protection Agency would cut sulphur levels in gasoline by over 60 per cent and would come into effect between 2017 and 2025.

While the move came in for praise from health advocates, a group of petroleum refiners called the compliance schedule unrealistic, warning that the regulations and others would eventually push up gasoline prices across the country.

According to Dr Albert Rizzo, former chairman of the American Lung Association, reducing these pollutants and making the air healthier, would bring relief to those suffering from asthma, other lung diseases and cardiovascular disease, and to the nation as a whole.

According to the agency's estimate, once fully in place, the standards would help avoid up to 2,000 premature deaths per year as also 50,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children adding on an average 1 cent per gallon to the cost of gasoline.

However, Charles Drevna, president of the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, rejected the agency's cost estimate.

Meanwhile, the rules have received support from automakers, which reflects a new way of doing business for an industry that had often been at loggerheads with the regulator.

A General Motors executive joined EPA administrator Gina McCarthy at the announcement of the rule yesterday.

The rules have received support from five car companies, five trade groups and the United Auto Workers union.

The support from automakers lines them up with the American Lung Association, environmental groups and state clean-air agencies which consider the limits on sulfur emissions as one of president Barack Obama's most significant environmental initiatives.

Bloomberg quoted Michael Stanton, president and chief executive officer of the Association of Global Automakers, as saying in an interview, that the paradigm had changed to where the industry was trying to work much better with the regulators and build relationships and build trust, so as to get a satisfactory outcome.

The changed stance of the auto industry had come about gradually after the US bailouts of GM and Chrysler, following the recession that depressed car sales by 39 per cent between 2005 and 2009.