The Chicago area, hardest hit by high gasoline prices when EPA forced it to switch to new Tier II reformulated gasoline this summer, should not be required to use oxygenated gasoline because it is in compliance with clean air standards.
In an essay for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Ben Lieberman quotes Kay Jones, former senior air quality consultant to the President’s Council on Environmental Quality, as saying, “[Chicago] has probably been in attainment [for air quality standards] since 1997.”
The 1999 edition of Illinois EPA’s Annual Air Quality Report bears out Jones’ statement. It shows Cook County, in which Chicago is located, did not once exceed EPA’s 120 part per billion standard, with an average reading of 87.5 ppb and a peak of 91.
Demonstrating that the density of population and, therefore, vehicles, may be irrelevant to ozone generation, rural downstate Effingham, Illinois–with six-tenths of 1 percent of Cook County’s population–had an average of 94 ppb with a peak of 95.
When asked about this phenomenon, an Illinois EPA spokesperson attributed it to a previously untracked factor known as “background Nox,” which he said “we only learned about recently.”