Capturing Car Emissions

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Cars do emit air pollutants. One aspect of this occurs during fueling of the vehicle. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that the systems used at gas station pumps to capture harmful gasoline vapors while refueling cars can be phased out. Modern vehicles are equipped to capture those emissions. This final rule is part of the Obama Administration’s initiative to reduce the economic burden of unneeded rules and requirements.

Vapor recovery is the process of recovering the vapors of gasoline or other fuels, so that they do not escape into the atmosphere. This is often done (or required by law) at filling stations, in order to reduce noxious and potentially explosive fumes and pollution.

The negative pressure created in the (underground) tank by the withdrawal is usually used to pull in the vapors. They are drawn-in through holes in the side of the nozzle and travel through special hoses which have a return path.

Beginning later this year, states may begin the process of phasing out vapor recovery systems at the pump since approximately 70 percent of all vehicles are equipped with on-board systems that capture these vapors. This final rule will ensure that air quality and public health are protected while potentially saving the approximately 31,000 affected gas stations located in mostly urban areas more than $3,000 each year when fully implemented.

Since 1994, gas stations in areas that do not meet certain air quality standards have been required to use gasoline vapor recovery systems. The systems capture fumes that escape from gasoline tanks during refueling.

However, as required by the Clean Air Act, automobile manufacturers began installing onboard refueling vapor recovery (ORVR) technologies in 1998, making gas stations’ systems increasingly redundant. Since 2006, all new automobiles and light trucks (pickups, vans and SUVs) are equipped with ORVR systems.

Gasoline vapors from refueling, if allowed to escape, can contribute significantly to ground-level ozone, sometimes called smog, as well as to other types of harmful air pollution. Breathing air containing high levels of smog can reduce lung function and increase respiratory symptoms, aggravating asthma or other respiratory conditions and other health conditions. Gasoline vapors also contain toxic air pollutants associated with a variety of health threats.

This final rule responds to public comments on EPA’s July 2011 proposal, and will take effect upon publication in the Federal Register.

For further information see Pumping Gas.

Article by Andy Soos, appearing courtesy Environmental News Network.

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

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