The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it is delaying the normally required shift to cleaner-burning summertime gasoline in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic having caused plummeting demand that has left pipelines, refineries, and storage tanks full of winter-grade fuel.
The EPA requires refiners, distributors, and retailers to switch over to production and sale of low-volatility gasoline each year in advance of the summer driving season, to reduce the formation of smog.
Waiver Could Expand
EPA is delaying the required fuel switch by at least 20 days, in response to requests from refiners, gasoline distributors, and gasoline retailers worried about their ability to empty tanks and other equipment as economic lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders drastically reduced driving and flying. EPA expressed concern the failure to grant a waiver could cause fuel shortages in the summer because refiners and distributors would be required to stop selling winter gasoline on May 1.
“Nobody’s buying fuel right now,” Reuters reports EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler saying in a telephone interview. “There’s not the capacity of the tanks just to even blend the winter fuel into the summer fuel. We have a real, live problem out there.”
The EPA’s waiver covers fuel refiners and distributors for May 1 to May 20. The agency indicated it could extend the waiver, either nationally or regionally, beyond May 20 if economic conditions and demand for gasoline have not improved sufficiently.
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a senior fellow at The Heartland Institute.