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EPA Study Finds Emission Reductions from Gasoline Clean Fuels Programs Exceeded Requirements in Some Areas

Reduction of NOx by Summer RFG compared to averaged standard. Click to enlarge.

A new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report assessing the performance of the agency’s clean fuels programs based on data collected from 1995-2005 found actual emission reductions often significantly greater than regulatory requirements.

As a result of the Clean Air Act (CAA) of 1990, EPA adopted clean fuel programs for gasoline. In 1995, EPA implemented the Reformulated Gasoline (RFG) program, designed to reduce emissions of ozone-causing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and NOx and air toxics such as benzene and formaldehyde. At the same time, EPA implemented an anti-dumping program, to protect the emission qualities of conventional gasoline (CG).

The data analyzed in Fuel Trends Report: Gasoline 1995 - 2005, which provide a view of recent gasoline property trends, are mainly from the reformulated gasoline (RFG) and anti-dumping programs. Highlights of the report include:

  • Gasoline sulfur decreases. Average annual sulfur content in all gasoline dropped from about 300 parts per million (ppm) in 1997 to about 90 ppm in 2005.

  • RFG NOx reductions exceed requirements. RFG exceeded applicable NOx performance standards during both Phase I (1998-1999) and Phase II (2000 and beyond).

  • RFG toxics reductions exceed requirements. On average, Phase I RFG complied with Phase II standards, and toxic performance still improved with the transition to Phase II standards.

  • Conventional gasoline NOx and toxics emissions decreased. Between 1998 and 2005, the summer NOx emissions of conventional gasoline were reduced by 5.7%, while summer exhaust toxics were reduced by 4.7%.

  • Ethanol use in RFG increased and MTBE use decreased. In the summer of 1996, about 11% of the RFG sold contained ethanol while virtually all the remainder contained MTBE. By the summer of 2005, the ethanol share increased to about 53%, with corresponding decreases in MTBE.




It's a pity that you can't trust any news from the Bush EPA.

I'd love to hear that we have exceeded our goals, but who would trust them to not manipulate the scientific results?

John L.

And if we HAVE in fact exceeded our goals? Then the Bush EPA will seize on the unexpected gains as a reason to delay progress.


Bush is probably ready to let dirty car diesels back on the road. Hey, they let the dirty truck diesels stay in America.


In the unlikely event they are telling the truth it only means the goals they set were too low.


I'm happy to hear some good news on the environmental front. I'm surprised it is being interpreted as bad news by some.

I've noticed the reduction in sulfur smell when on a long grade near my California home. I like having less surfur from exhausts.

Looking forward to even less with PHEV.


Low sulfur diesel fuel came about from the efforts of the Clinton/Gore administration. It took 7 years to take effect. It was fought because it might cost an extra 10 cents per gallon. However the price premium that has been added during that time took oil from $20 per barrel to almost $100 per barrel and doubled the price of diesel fuel. That 10 cents does not seem like much now for cleaner air.

Kit P

Of course, sic is referring to the long list of things to improve the environment that Clinton failed to act on. Working on environmental improvement projects was very frustrating under Clinton. He was all talk. I find it amusing that the folks with BDS are critical of Bush programs that are identical Clinton Programs.

I have also found that the Bush admin is much less bias when presenting scientific results. EPA and DOE periodically issue reports. When reading the executive summary of Clinton admin reports, unpopular finding were left out. The information was still in the body of the report.

NASA 's Dr. Hansen made be the icon of manipulate the scientific results. I was listening to him on NPR. He is a federal employee making irresponsible recommendations outside his field of expertize while lying about the administration's position. He should be fired.

Dr. Hansen and Al Gore are still debating AGW. Bush/Cheny are doing something about.


This is mostly good news, except that RFG using ethanol as the oxygenate actually increases fugitive gasoline vapor emissions per NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory), exactly the opposite from what it was intended to do.

It appears to me that gasoline will need to be phased out, whether it be by diesel vehicles, EVs, or anything else that doesn't require a VOC fuel, before really significant progress can be made with respect to urban air quality.


Could the whole array be smoke and mirrors?

Stan Peterson

Once again in the popular mind the world is polluted and getting worse. It is refreshing to see that the air is improving.

Where energy comes from, does indeed matter. Electricity to fuel Ground Transport wins two ways.

First, Electrical generation is cleaner than ICE power even if the generation were 100% fossil fuels based. Of course its not. An appreciable portion comes from nuclear and hydro. As tiny and inconsequential as wind, wave, and solar is, it contributes to clean electric generation.

Second, The real benefit comes from efficiency. Electric drive is simply enormously more efficient. So we need less of an intrinsically, cleaner fuel source.

Third, the fuel source is essentially dependent on no one source and is therefore unlimited. Countries will not war over an unlimited resource available to all.

If PHEVs and hybrids cut fossil demand by greater than 60%, as seems likely by 2020, price and supply issues disappear and threats to world order by communist caudillos, or Islamo-fascist thugs, trying to corner the market, is substantially reduced if not eliminated.

Best of all it results in appreciably cleaner air in our country for all to breathe.


Hmm... average sulphur dropped a whopping 70% from 300 ppm to 90 ppm...

If it had dropped an unthinkable 97% down to 9 ppm, you'd barely have fuel in compliance of current EU regulation (10 ppm).

Typically, diesel fuel around here has 3-6 ppm sulphur - as required for "clean" diesels and their aftertreatment systems (well, actually, to get away with much less hassle in the aftertreatment).

Harvey D

Artificially set 'requirements' are often easy to meet and surpass.

If man-made pollution level 'requirements' were set at zero, the basic minimum would be the natural (difficult to determine) levels. Anything above that would be above 'requirements'.

If the natural CO2 level is 200 ppm, than the current 384 ppm would be 92% above 'requirements' etc.


The above comments worry about what quantity of what chemical does the worst damage or which politico does the least damage. Studies show children playing, schooling or living(trying to live) near freeways have higher lung & heart disease & deaths, the closer those children live to major thoroughfares. Set your life accordingly.

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