Jenergy: Week ending March 29, 2013.

Easter: Now with Less Brimstone!  On Good Friday, while Congress wasn’t looking (I’d like to think they filled the copier room with Peeps and dove in), the EPA rolled out its proposal for Tier 3 gasoline regulations. In short, this set of regulations would dramatically reduce allowable sulfur content in gasoline. California’s hippies already have these standards in place–they got an EPA waiver, even though Congress ruled that states couldn’t have their own fuel standards. Tier 3 would bring the rest of the nation in line with theirs.

Great! How much will this cost me? Refineries would take on some cost burden of this, so we can expect a slight rise in the cost of gasoline by 2017. Some estimates say maybe a couple of cents per gallon; others say 6 to 7 cents. But you can drive more miles on lower-sulfur gasoline, so that seems like a wash. Other than that, we can expect a slight increase in prices of vehicles. You’d think vehicle manufacturers would oppose this, but you’d generally be wrong. You usually are, to be fair. They’ve always had to make different vehicles for California, so they’re pretty meh about changing the lines, if not happy.drew-brophy-camper-van-painting-sunrise-on-sano

You might not be happy, though. You’re never happy. The upfront cost estimates range from $1000-4800. That would likely price a whole pile of people out of the cost of a new car. Though it’s pretty clear that the increased vehicle cost will be outweighed by the fact that lower sulfur content increases the life of the vehicle–it will add about 5 years to most types of internal combustion engines–consumers are notoriously bad at balancing out long-term versus short-term costs, because upfront costs are now, and we really like thinking about now, temporal creatures that we are.

What’s good? The health benefits are significant: in terms of air quality, this will be the equivalent of taking 33 million cars off the roads. Politically speaking, these regulations were tentatively discussed in Obama’s first term, but were taken off the table during election season. It’s nice to see them back! Which brings us to our next topic:

Upcoming Appointment and Why You Care: Remember what I said about California having different fuel standards? PAY ATTENTION. Well, fuel economy standards are usually set by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, under the authority of Congress. Congress forbids states to make laws related to fuel economy. But the EPA granted California a fuel-economy waiver anyhow.

Why are they allowed to do that, when I can’t bump a rail off a fully-automatic weapon held by a sex worker any time I want? Well, the decision has been affirmed through the good old-fashioned American tradition of lawsuits. The EPA won this year in a federal ruling that says greenhouse gas emissions pose a threat to public health, and the EPA has broad latitude to regulate that sort of thing. So, do we say that greenhouse gas emissions regulations are “related to” fuel economy standards? Well… fuck yeah. But that’s reality, and not the letter of the law. How are we supposed to deal with this? Meanwhile, the Obama administration has nominated Gina McCarthy for head of the EPA in its second term. She testified before the House Oversight Committee that the two are “aligned but different.” That’s not the whole truth, which is a sticking point in her nomination, for me. But, damn, that’s not an easy line to walk.

2 thoughts on “Jenergy: Week ending March 29, 2013.

  1. I’m afraid to say that lowering the sulfur content of gasoline will not reduce fuel consumption per se. I mean if you put lower or even zero sulfur gas in your car it will guzzle all of it with the same rate. So it is not like a wash (at least for currently on-road vehicles). Lower sulfur gas for current cars ONLY extends the catalytic converter life. And to be honest that is the last part in your car that you should be concerned about because it does not have anything with the performance (to be more honest you would be happy to remove it because that will increase your vehicle’s performance 3-4%) . Also, to the best of my knowledge, sulfur content (between 30 to 10 ppm) will not add 5 or any less number of years to your vehicles life. So, no benefit for current car owners in terms of fuel bill or vehicle lifetime.
    What makes the difference is that with lower-sulfur gas it is possible for car manufacturer to introduce new engine technologies that require low sulfur gas (running those new technologies on 30 ppm sulfur gas is like forcing a baby to drink double shot tequila!). But lower fuel consumption is not because of the lower sulfur, it is just because of the new technology (that is called lean-burn and/or direct injection technology). Which by the way you have to pay much higher to buy it and to maintain it. I haven’t read any article or paper claiming that direct injection lean-burn engines have higher lifetime. I’m sure that because they have much higher sensitive components, the lifetime can hardly be even equal to current engines (that points to one of the major challenges of auto makers). This may even increase Total Cost Ownership (TCO) if fuel saving during the lifetime of the vehicle cannot balance out the higher cost of maintenance (specially if you drive more than 4000 miles annually)!
    In sum, new technologies in gasoline engine are not for better endurance at all but only for better fuel economy and hence lower emission.

  2. Either Way Thank You for the information.. any bickering now is futile and trite. Better gas, better fuel economy, and I predict… everything will cost more! Thanks for the details and info Jenergy! 😀

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