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Beginning next week, the government will accomplish a large step in reducing environmental and human health problems with the introduction of Ultra-Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD) at gas pumps nationwide that deal with transportation and construction fleets, the Richmond Times Dispatch reported.
As of Sunday, diesel fuel for trucks and buses must conform to new regulations regarding a sulfur content of 15 parts per million or less. In a 7,500-gallon tanker truck of fuel, the sulfur equivalent would amount to an ounce of sulfur.
The new regulation requires fuel to contain 97 percent less sulfur than regulations placed in 1993, which allowed the same tanker truck to contain 2 ponds of sulfur.
Environmental Protection Agency administrator Stephen Johnson believes the new fuel is the greatest single achievement in clean fuel since lead was removed from gasoline more than 25 years ago. The switch to ULSD was mandated by the Agency in 2001.
There are some concerns about the availability of the new fuel, the testing required to ensure the regulations are being met and the potential fines that can be levied if a station is found violating the rules, according to Michael O'Connor of the Virginia Petroleum, Convenience and Grocery Association.
Dave McComas, CEO of Fas Mart convenience stores, told the Richmond Times Dispatch the chain will not label its diesel pumps as ULSD until adequate amounts of the new fuel has gone through station tanks to ensure that the old fuel is gone and stations are assured a stable supply.
No supply problems have been found to date, said Michael Ward of the Virginia Petroleum Council, a representative agency for oil refiners. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 90 percent of the diesel being produced by U.S. refineries is ULSD, and no supply problems are expected, the report stated.
One downside to the fuel is that it costs 6 to 12 cents more per gallon than low-sulfur fuel, which has a sulfur content of 500 parts per million, according to local petroleum wholesaler John Zehler Jr. The Environmental Protection Agency said the additional cost will drop to less than 5 cents per gallon and outweighs the health benefits gained from the switch. The switch to the ULSD will create more than $150 billion annually in health and environmental benefits with a cost of roughly $6 billion, according to EPA estimates, the report stated.