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Smog-curbing limits on gas volatility.

Smog-curbing limits on gas volatility

On March 10 the EPA announced new limits on the volatility of U.S. gasoline for summer months, defined as May 1 to Sep. 15. Agency officials anticipate that the new standard, scheduled to go into effect around July 1, will reduce by roughly 13 percent emissions of pollutants that contribute to smog ozone. These limits lower the allowable vapor pressure for most states to 10.5 pounds per square inch (psi), from the 11.5 psi typical in many areas today. But based on zone categories reflecting a state's altitude, climate and average temperature, the new standard does vary by region -- and sometimes by month -- to a possible low of 9 psi.

Though U.S. cars have been designed to run on 9-psi fuels, volatility has crept upward recently as refiners have responded to the phase out of octane-enhancing lead by substituting butane and other highly volatile octane boosters. Less volatile alternatives tend to be costlier.

William Becker, executive director of the State and Territorial Air Pollution Program Administrators in Washington, D.C., argues that if the Bush administration wanted to demonstrate its commitment to fighting the growing problem of urban smog (SN: 2/25/89, p. 119), it should have lowered summer volatility to a maximum of 9 psi and required similary cost-effective vapor-recovery systems on gas pumps and new cars. He notes that the wording of the new rule also makes it legally difficult for some cooler states that have set 9-psi limits to enact tougher-than-federal rules.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Mar 25, 1989
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