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WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration is considering removing environmental requirements for a multitude of gasoline blends as one way to increase supplies of gasoline and fight soaring prices, Commerce Secretary Donald Evans said in an interview with the Associated Press.
Evans said the cost of gasoline, which hit a record nationwide average of $2.06 this week, was already having an effect on driving habits, with people making fewer trips to the store. "It is of great concern to us," Evans said. "The president will take all the steps we can to deal with the problem."
One of the areas the administration is exploring is what it can do to reduce the requirements for different types of gasoline blends in different parts of the country to deal with specific pollution problems, Evans said.
"We've got to think real hard whether we need 17, 18, 19, 20, whatever it is, different varieties of fuel in this country," Evans said. "That puts certain areas of the country at a very high risk of being dependent on a single source supplier."
The issue needs to be examined because it is hurting the country's ability to import gasoline from around the world because foreign refineries do not produce "the boutique fuels that we consume here in America," Evans added.
Streamlining the regulatory process for getting approval to build or expand existing oil refineries could be another way to expand supplies. Evans said there has not been a new oil refinery built in more than 25 years.
Evans is the second cabinet official to raise the issue of the numerous gasoline blends that are required to meet environmental standards. Energy secretary Spencer Abraham, testifying before a house panel last month, said that the administration was seriously considering requests from the states of California and New York to waive requirements to sell specially blended gasoline.
The two states are seeking waivers from the Environmental Protection Agency in an effort to lower gasoline prices for consumers. The requirements for specially blended gasoline make fuel more expensive. EPA spokesman John Millett said the agency was still considering the requests and has given no indication when it might rule on the waiver requests.