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How pushing for better air quality could allow for more affordable gas

Posted at 10:45 AM, Sep 27, 2022

DENVER, Colo. — Gas prices are on the rise again, due to many factors like hurricane Ian, unplanned maintenance on refineries in California, and low inventory issues.

But another factor is leading to a rise in fuel cost, and that is pollution. This is why there is a push across the nation to improve the air quality which could lead to more affordable gas.

“There are a lot of cities that rank really poor when it comes to ozone pollution,” said Danny Katz, the executive director of CoPIRG. "In order to tackle the high levels of ozone pollution, we have a lot of tools, ozone comes from a variety of sources, and one of the tools we have is to require what's known as cleaner gasoline, some studies show that the cleaner gasoline can drive up the price of gasoline."

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires certain areas in the country to have reformulated gas, which is a blend that burns more cleanly to help reduce smog and is usually more expensive.

Currently, the EPA requirements are in effect in cities in 12 states.

The most recent city to join that list is in Colorado. Denver will be required to use reformulated gas in June 2024 for the summer months.

"Unfortunately, it's not a problem we were able to solve,” said Skyler McKinley, a spokesperson for AAA in Colorado. “Folks didn't drive less; they did not abide by the recommendations of the EPA, so now the EPA are tightening the screws and making their recommendations. The producers sell it for more, producers can expect prices to go up by maybe as much as 30 cents in the summer months. But it's an open question. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment think we can get to compliance without the EPA having to implement that rule.”

This is why there are efforts across the country to help get these cities off the reformulated gas lists and prevent other cities from joining it.

Some of those solutions are clean energy tax credits stemming from solar panels for homes. Another is getting more people to buy electric vehicles by offering more incentives.

Even President Biden's recent $7 billion funding for his clean hydrogen plan that will create 10 regional clean hydrogen hubs to lower emissions in sectors like energy transportation and steel could help with this cause.

“All these factors are important,” Katz said. “Whether it's reducing pollution in our buildings by going to more cleaner and clean energy heat pumps, or removing gas appliances, or rationing down pollution industries by electrifying everything, or making sure trucks and vehicles are electric.”