|Map of federal and boutique fuel requirements in the US, as of January 2006. Click to enlarge. Source: ExxonMobil|
Following through on a directive given last week by President Bush to reduce the number of boutique fuels, (earlier post) Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Stephen Johnson launched a task force on Thursday to review the boutique fuels used across the county.
Fuel composition and quality are proven and effective measures for emissions reductions. In general, the federal Clean Air Act sets the standards for gasoline—there are six different kinds of fuels (RFG and low RVP) in the federal programs. However, areas having a proven air quality need can adopt unique clean fuel requirements to address those special needs or non-attainment classifications. Boutique fuels are the specialized blends produced for a specific state or area of the country to meet those specific state and local air quality requirements.
Roughly 15 states have adopted their own clean fuel programs for part or all of the state. These state fuel programs make up nine different kinds of fuels. The combination of the federal and boutique programs was, according to the EPA, “intended to reflect a balance that allows areas sufficient flexibility to accomplish air quality needs.”
Although the boutique fuels deliver “substantial air quality and public health benefits” at minimal cost, according to the EPA, the fuels may present “serious challenges to the fuel distribution system and, especially in times of disruption, may have the potential to result in local supply shortages.”
The mandate of the task force is to simplify and unify the system of fuel regulations (i.e., to reduce the number of fuels), as well as increase cooperation among states on gasoline supply decisions.
EPA’s goal is to provide the president with a final report within six to eight weeks. In order to meet this timeline, EPA will hold a series of meetings to provide states the opportunity to present their views and recommendations. EPA also will involve industry experts, public health organizations and other interested parties.