US survey finds support for national gasoline standards

Americans support uniform national clean gasoline standards and are willing to pay more for cleaner gasoline if it means cleaner air, according to a new national survey conducted for the American Lung Association.

The survey reveals that nearly seven of 10 respondents said they would personally pay five cents more per gallon for cleaner gasoline and that the majority of Americans favour requiring the same air pollution standards for sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and minivans as for passenger cars.

Most people also believe diesel vehicles should meet the same standards as gasoline vehicles, and they reject the idea of permitting weaker standards for diesel vehicles in order to get better fuel economy.

Current regulations permit SUVs, minivans and other light trucks to emit more pollution than passenger cars. The regulations also allow diesel vehicles to emit more pollution than gasoline vehicles.

The survey results were released as the US EPA prepares to propose new clean gasoline and clean car standards. The new standards are also expected to cover sport utility vehicles, minivans and small pickup trucks.

“This survey clearly demonstrates that Americans want national standards for clean vehicles and clean gasoline – and are willing to pay for cleaner air,” said John R. Garrison, CEO of the American Lung Association. “As last summer’s smog reminded us, dirty air remains a national health problem, and we need national solutions.”

Garrison noted that much of the oil industry opposes strong national clean gasoline standards and wants to allow dirtier, higher-sulphur gasoline, especially in the West.

But pollster Celinda Lake, who conducted the survey, noted, “overwhelmingly, people believe stricter standards for clean gasoline should be enforced across the entire country because it makes the air cleaner everywhere.”

An 89 percent majority favoured national clean gasoline standards, versus only 4 percent who favoured the oil industry position that “cleaner gasoline is not necessary in the West, except in California, because the air is already clean enough.” Even in the West, the survey found a whopping 84 percent say the same standards should be enforced everywhere.

Garrison noted that removing most of the sulphur from gasoline would make the operation of cars and other vehicles much cleaner because sulphur impedes the performance of pollution control equipment. EPA experts predict the cleanup could cost oil companies from one to three cents per gallon.

The Lung Association survey found that 69 percent of respondents are willing to pay up to five cents more per gallon of gasoline if it would produce significantly less pollution. 91 percent of people are willing to pay up to three cents more per gallon for cleaner gasoline. Nearly four in 10 would pay up to 10 cents more per gallon.

Some US auto makers have opposed the idea of applying strict pollution standards to SUVs and have argued that EPA should set looser pollution standards for diesel vehicles because they get better fuel economy. But the new survey found that:

  By a 91 percent to 8 percent margin, the public agreed that SUVs and minivans should be required to meet the same strict pollution standards as passenger cars. Even 87% of SUV owners and 92% of minivan owners agree these vehicles should meet the same standards as automobiles.

  By an 88 percent-11 percent margin, survey respondents said diesel vehicles and gasoline vehicles should be required to meet the same strict pollution standards.

  By a 74 percent-21 percent margin, people rejected the notion of allowing more pollution from diesel vehicles in return for better gas mileage.

  In general, survey respondents said their current air quality was good (49 percent) or excellent (23 percent), versus 27 percent who said their air quality was fair or poor.

  However, six in ten Americans said they believe the air has become dirtier over the past decade. Younger non-college-educated adults (70 percent), people in the South (66 percent) and people in non-metro areas (66 percent) are most likely to believe their air quality has deteriorated.

The survey of 1,000 adults was conducted December 3-6, 1998, by Lake Snell Perry & Associates. The margin of error is +/-3.1%.

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