This time, it could be the oil and gas industry's turn to make sacrifices in
the name of improved fuel economy for cars and trucks and cleaner air.
On Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed new rules that could cut the sulfur level in gasoline by more than 60%.
Automakers welcomed the move while the oil and gas industry said it eventually would cause gas prices to increase up to 9 cents per gallon and cost billions.
"It's a positive step forward," said Gloria Berquist, vice president of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.
The alliance -- a Washington-based industry group that includes General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota and others -- said clean-burning technologies needed to hit challenging new fuel economy standards require "cleaner, low-sulfur fuels similar to those available today in Europe and Asia."
Berquist said the European Union, Japan and Korea are among the countries with regulations ensuring cleaner gasoline than the U.S.
The auto industry also wants harmonization of EPA rules and stricter California tailpipe standards that this proposal largely achieves.
"We want a simple road map," Berquist said of the desire to eliminate the cost of duplicate tests to meet different standards and time lines. "It adds to the cost of an automobile."
The new standards would be phased in between 2017 and 2025 -- by which time the fleet of new cars and light-duty trucks is expected to meet a fuel economy standard of 54.5 miles per gallon under previously announced rules.
"Automakers have been looking at ways to produce cleaner cars. It's a trend that will continue, and to do that, we need clean fuels," Berquist said.
GM also said the new regulations would help avoid a patchwork of federal and state standards.
"Cleaner fuels are critical for future emissions control systems to achieve the levels of pollution reduction envisioned by regulators," GM said in a statement.
The standards would reduce sulfur in gasoline by more than 60% and reduce nitrogen oxides by 80%.
But the proposal drew ire from the oil and gas industry.
The oil industry, Republicans and some Democrats wanted the EPA to delay the rule, citing higher costs.
According to the American Petroleum Institute, complying with the new standards could increase gasoline prices by 6-9 cents a gallon; the EPA pegged the cost at 1 cent a gallon.
Patrick Kelly, senior policy adviser for the petroleum institute, denied that the proposed rules set up a battle between the auto industry and the oil and gas industry.
"We have a common consumer. We want to act in the best interest of not just our companies, but our consumers, as well," Kelly said. "I don't think this is an automotive versus oil industry issue -- I think it's an overreach by EPA."
He said the oil and gas industry already has reduced nitrogen oxide emissions by 70%.
Kelly contended that oil refineries would need to spend more than $10 billion to further reduce the amount of sulfur in gasoline to meet the proposed standards.
"It's a significant cost with a negligible benefit," Kelly said.
The new program is expected to be finalized after a 30-day comment period. The cost for new technology on vehicles designed to the new standard is expected to be about $130 per car or truck, the EPA said.
At the Environmental Law & Policy Center, executive director Howard Learner praised the new standards, saying they "combine with the earlier clean car standards to spur technological innovations that reduce pollution in the air we breathe and improve vehicle efficiency."
Luke Tonachel, senior vehicles analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the standards will "save lives, save money and clean up our air -- all at a minimal cost."
"Big Oil companies want us to believe these benefits aren't worth it, but that's because they care about profits above all else," he added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
MORE DETAILS: THE EPA'S PROPOSED GAS STANDARDS:
The EPA says: The proposed standards will reduce gasoline sulfur levels by more than 60% -- down to 10 parts per million in 2017. Reducing sulfur in gasoline enables vehicle-emission-control technologies to perform more efficiently.
When do they go into effect? The new program won't be official until a 30-day comment period expires and the EPA reviews the comments.
The proposal is designed to be adopted over the same time frame as the next phase of the EPA's program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks beginning in model year 2017.
What does the automotive industry say?
"For future progress, our advanced emission-control technologies that are necessary to meet the challenging 2017-2025 greenhouse gas and fuel-economy standards will require cleaner, low-sulfur fuels similar to those available today in Europe and Asia."
What does the oil and gas industry say?
"There is a tsunami of federal regulations coming out of the EPA that could put upward pressure on gasoline prices. EPA's proposed fuel regulations are the latest example. Consumers care about the price of fuel, and our government should not be adding unnecessary regulations."
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