Transport fuel producers in the US will have three years to develop products emitting less soot and toxic emissions than currently used car fuels.
The regulations, introduced today by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), aim to help decrease the incidence of asthma and heart attack in the US. The so-called Tier 3 rules have been under development since President Barrack Obama issued a memorandum calling for greener fuel standards in 2010.
By 2017, the fuel manufacturers will have to develop fuels with 60 per cent lower gasoline sulphur level compared with currently available products. The fuels will also have to produce less tailpipe and evaporative emissions in cars, light and medium-duty trucks, as well as some heavy-duty vehicles.
The standards will attempt to cut the sulphur content of gasoline to 10 parts per million from 30 ppm currently. This would boost efficiency for new emission control technologies that automakers will use to help achieve the administration's wider clean car standards, the agency said.
While health groups have welcomed the announcement, fuel producers have said the schedule, binding them to develop and deliver greener fuels in less than three years, is unrealistic and will only increase prices of transport fuels for American consumers.
"This rule's biggest impact is to increase the cost of delivering energy to Americans, making it a threat to consumers, jobs and the economy," said Bob Greco, of the American Petroleum Institute, a lobbying group for the American petrochemical industry.
The organization estimates the rules would increase gasoline prices by 6 cents to 9 cents per gallon. The EPA’s estimates, on the other hand, expect the standards would provide up to $13 (£7.8) in health benefits for every dollar spent to meet the standards and raise gasoline prices by just 0.065 cents per gallon.
The new greener fuels will be phased in between 2017 and 2025, with some types of vehicle classes being allowed the later date for adoption.
Once fully in place, the standards are believed to help avoid up to 2,000 premature deaths per year and 50,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children while adding only an average of 1 cent per gallon to the cost of gasoline. The US hopes the move will help save between $6.7bn and $19bn of annual healthcare expenses by 2030.