At the end of March, the EPA issued a proposed new vehicle emission and fuel standards program, known as the Tier 3, to reduce air pollution from passenger cars and trucks. Starting in 2017, Tier 3 would set new vehicle emission standards, lower the sulfur content of gasoline, reduce air pollution, create new jobs through new technology, and save lives. Sounds great, right?
Unfortunately, if not surprisingly, Big Oil opposes the new standards, trotting out tired, misleading claims that the clean air benefits from the rule aren't worth the cost. In reality, the oil industry simply doesn't want to spend the extra one-penny-per-gallon it would cost to produce cleaner gasoline, and the industry is lobbying hard to defeat the Tier 3 standards, putting their private profits above public health.
But Big Oil and its lobbying association, the American Petroleum Institute, are virtually alone in opposing Tier 3. General Motors, Honda, the Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers, and Global Automakers all support the new standards, as do auto parts manufacturers and the United Auto Workers. Most significantly, the American public supports the new standards, too, by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.
Nearly half of all Americans live in areas where the air is sometimes unsafe to breathe, in large part due to vehicle pollution. Passenger cars and trucks are the second-largest source of smog-forming pollution in the U.S., and they emit more than half of all carbon monoxide pollution. By requiring cleaner gasoline and vehicle pollution-control technology, the Tier 3 standards will dramatically reduce dangerous pollution and prevent thousands of asthma attacks and deaths each year.
Finalizing new cleaner tailpipe standards is one of the strongest steps the Obama administration can take to support public health. It is estimated that by 2030, the Tier 3 standards would annually prevent:
- Between 820 and 2,400 premature deaths
- 3,200 hospital admissions and asthma-related emergency room visits
- 22,000 asthma attacks
- 23,000 upper- and lower-respiratory symptoms in children
- 1.8 million lost school days and work days
By requiring refineries to produce cleaner-burning gasoline, Tier 3 would reduce nitrogen oxide emissions nationwide by more than 260,000 tons annually -- the equivalent of taking 33 million cars off the road. A study by Navigant Economics puts healthcare savings of implementing the proposed standards at $5 to $6 billion annually by 2020, and $10 to $11 billion annually by 2030.
Implementing Tier 3 would also create an estimated 30,000 good new jobs in design, manufacturing, installation, and maintenance as automakers apply these advanced technologies and refineries upgrade their equipment. More than 5,000 of these would be permanent jobs in the operation and maintenance of new refinery equipment, and approximately 25,000 jobs would be created over a three-year period for equipment installation at the nation's refineries, providing a boost to our economic recovery.
A diverse coalition of industry, public health, environmental, labor, and science-based organizations representing millions of Americans supports cleaner gasoline and vehicle standards because they are a win-win for the American people. Automakers and the United Auto Workers support Tier 3, as do local and state public health agencies and public health organizations.
The public overwhelmingly supports the proposed Tier 3 standards. According to a survey conducted by the American Lung Association, 62 percent of Americans surveyed support the EPA setting stricter standards and tightening limits on tailpipe emissions from new cars. Automakers and the United Auto Workers support them as well.
Now is the time to add your voice to the growing chorus of citizens who are standing up for children and clean air -- and standing up to Big Oil. It is crucial that the standards be finalized this year -- failure to do so would result in losing at least an entire model year worth of benefits at a time when the climate crisis has become critical.