Consumers looking to boost their fuel economy and lower their cars' emissions can choose from an ever-increasing number of car and truck options. But given the 3 trillion miles that Americans drive each year, huge amounts of pollution are still being produced. The air around our roadways has high concentrations of particulates, ozone, carbon monoxide, lead, and sulfur—more than 50 percent of which comes from vehicles. That pollution can cause respiratory problems in children and adults.
The future holds the promise of cars that emit no pollution traveling our highways and byways. But until that time, there are steps that can be taken now to reduce vehicle emissions, including a clean-car plan that will dramatically slash pollution in our cities—the equivalent of removing 33 million cars from our roads.
Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed new standards that would require cleaner gasoline and lower-pollution vehicles nationwide. Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, supports these "Tier 3" standards, which aim to improve air quality by curbing the sulfur content of gasoline and setting new tailpipe standards to limit smog emissions.
Low-sulfur gasoline would help clean up the exhaust of older vehicles and increase the lifespan of their emission systems. In new cars, it would improve reliability and lower the costs of maintaining the emissions systems. In addition, the standards would enable automakers to develop new, cost-effective technologies that could lead to higher fuel-efficiency. This EPA plan would add less than a penny to the price of a gallon of gas and less than $150 to the cost of a new car in 2025—money that the consumer would see returned through lower operating costs.
The EPA, under its new administrator, Gina McCarthy, has only four months to finalize the rules for model year 2017 vehicles.
The agency's proposals have garnered support from a wide variety of groups, including public-health officials, cities, and environmentalists—even the auto industry is on board. Unfortunately, the oil industry opposes the plan, which would require companies to make changes to their refineries. The oil industry's approach is to wait out the clock and stall the proposal or get Congress to intervene.
That's why the EPA needs to hear from consumers who want the agency to work toward cleaner gas and lower pollution. Consumers Union is encouraging consumers to send an e-mail of support to McCarthy, the EPA Administrator.
Consumers Union believes that the EPA plan is a commonsense way to clean our air and improve the environment, without burdening consumers at the pump. And with your help, we can see this plan become a reality.