Governors urge Trump to remove gasoline’s deadly aromatics

By Erin Voegele | November 25, 2019

Leaders of the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition sent a letter to President Trump on Nov. 25 requesting that he urge the U.S. EPA to enforce a provision of the Clean Air Act that requires the reduction and elimination of toxic carcinogenic aromatics from gasoline.

The provisions are contained in Section 202 of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. Within the letter, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, chair of the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition, and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, vice chair of the organization, note that the Senate voted 69-30 in favor of the amendments, which direct EPA to reduce aromatics in gasoline to the “greatest extent practicable” as technological advances became available. The House concurred, and President George H.W. Bush signed the amendments into law in November 1990, the letter states.

“Now, nearly 30 year later, the average gallon of gasoline is composed of nearly 30 percent toxic aromatics in order to increase octane required by today’s engines,” Walz and Noem wrote. “As oil prices have risen, aromatic costs have followed, with consumers paying the price. Aromatics are the most expensive, least energy efficient, and most carbon intensive and toxic part of gasoline. Scientific advances have confirmed that aromatics are the primary contributor to urban particulate matter—specifically aromatic aerosols, and nano-sized ultra-fine particulates coated with toxic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons—the product of the incomplete combustion of aromatics.”

The letter cites automakers as confirming that advanced engine deigns, such as direct injection, needed to meet fuel efficiency standards will make ultra-fine particle emissions worse. “In fact, studies show that direct injection engines are also expected to make emissions worse unless fuel quality standards are improved,” Walz and Noem wrote. “One practical and cost-effective way to reduce aromatics is to use 30 percent ethanol blends to reduce particulate matter and black carbon emissions by 45 percent, and hydrocarbon pollution by more than 20 percent.”

“The marketplace will deliver a variety of ways to reduce gasoline aromatics, including biofuels, as well as electrical and natural gas vehicles,” Walz and Noem continued. “However, for that to happen, EPA must do as Congress directed: reduce mobile source air toxics to the greatest extent possible.”

The Urban Air Initiative has spoken out to applaud the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition’s letter, calling it a long overdue step towards cleaner air. “This is a long overdue, proactive measure that could protect public health by giving consumers access to higher ethanol blends, which are cleaner and provide more octane,” said Dave VanderGriend, president of the UAI.  “Peer reviewed studies commissioned by UAI have clearly shown higher ethanol blends can replace aromatics and reduce harmful emissions.”

“These governors are to be commended for recognizing the value of ethanol as a tool to reduce air pollution and improve public health,” VanderGriend continued. “Their letter points out an existing law that requires no legislation to reduce aromatics.  As President Trump tries to help the ethanol and agriculture industries this is an immediate step he can take, simply by directing EPA to enforce the law.”

A full copy of the letter can be downloaded from the Governors’ Biofuels Coalition website.