Low-Sulfur Gas Debuts in Georgia

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Low-Sulfur Gas Debuts in Georgia

ATLANTA -- Low-sulfur gasoline goes on sale in a 45-county area Tuesday in a pollution-curbing move that will cost motorists about $1 more every time they fill up. All grades of gasoline sold under a new state rule will produce fewer nitrogen oxides, a main ingredient in smog.

The fuel requirement is part of Georgia's effort to fight pollution. Georgia began selling low-sulfur fuel in 1999 in 25 counties during the ozone season, which runs from June through September. That list was expanded to 45 counties in June, according to the Associated Press.

State Environmental Protection Division spokesman Kevin Chambers said Tuesday that the gasoline now being sold is the lowest sulfur content fuel available in Georgia.

In another development Monday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency downgraded the regions air quality from serious to severe, based on past Clean Air Act violations. As a result, gas stations are expected to have to start selling fuel that also meets federal standards by January 2005.

Richard Cobb, executive director of the Georgia Petroleum Council, said Georgia gas is already probably the cleanest gasoline in the country.

Federal environmental regulators estimate that refineries will spend about 7 cents more a gallon to produce gasoline that averages a sulfur content of 30 parts per million, or about one-tenth the amount found in unregulated gas. That cost will be shifted to consumers.

"We want the cleaner fuels for Atlanta's air quality. That's absolutely necessary. But it costs more," said Michael Kumpf, government affairs director for BP plc. BP was the first to offer the super low-sulfur fuel to its premium-grade customers in Atlanta. It was introduced in 1999, with no change in price.