FAQ about Kansas city's summertime fuel blend
What is "boutique fuel"?
The "boutique fuel" referred to in a recent Kansas City Star article and editorial is a low Reid Vapor Pressure (RVP) blend of fuel that reduces the emissions from gasoline vehicles, lawn mowers and anything else that uses regular gasoline from the pump. The fuel blend formula makes the fuel evaporate less quickly in the heat of summer so fewer ozone-producing substances are released into the air, creating a healthier environment for everyone. It's called a "boutique" fuel because it is not sold in every gasoline market but is limited to those where state and local officials have determined that there would be an air quality benefit.
How have our ozone levels changed since it was introduced in Kansas City?
The ozone levels in Kansas City have decreased dramatically over the past 10 years, even though we've grown in both geographic size and population. Ground-level ozone is a harmful pollutant. More information can be found here, but in short, the Kansas City Metropolitan Area has reduced its average ground-level ozone concentrations by 15 parts per billion – a significant percentage – since 1999. This reduction is, in part, credited to the less evaporative fuel blend.
Are we still on the brink of violating air quality laws?
The National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for ozone was last revised in 2008, and the governors of Kansas and Missouri have submitted recommendations of attainment for the Kansas City region for that standard to the U.S. EPA. Based on the most recent available data, the Kansas City area is attaining federal air quality standards. While we are close to the standard, the area is significantly below previous standards in place when the fuel was selected, indicating a trend of decreasing ozone pollution in our air.
Why didn’t you choose the reformulated gasoline 10 years ago, and why can’t you switch to it now?
Reformulated gasoline was the initial selection 10 years ago – the governors of Kansas and Missouri both submitted requests to join the federal reformulated gasoline program. However, an oil industry lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that former nonattainment areas – like Kansas City – were not allowed to opt in to the program. St. Louis was allowed to because it was still violating the ground-level ozone standard at the time. The next most cost-effective choice, given the options available at the time, included a blend of fuel similar, but not identical, to the reformulated gasoline. Unless another court overturns the previous lawsuit, we are still unable to require the reformulated gasoline unless our area becomes nonattainment for ozone, which is not an outcome we'd like to see.
Why is our fuel blend different from other metropolitan areas?
Different climates play a role in how effective a fuel blend will be. Kansas City sees warmer temperatures in the summertime, so fuel evaporates differently. Because of the climatological differences, each area has to evaluate which fuel makes the most sense, economically and environmentally, for them.
What kind of impact has ethanol had?
While the addition of ethanol to the fuel blend has reduced its efficacy somewhat, transportation is still one of the major sources of emissions. The reduction of emissions from the less evaporative blend reduces ozone formation in the atmosphere and reduces air pollution.
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