Nightly News   |  March 29, 2013

How much would EPA proposal raise gas prices?

The Environmental Protection Agency announced a clean air proposal that would reduce sulfur emissions by two-thirds and impose new tailpipe emission standards for 2017 cars and later – but reducing sulfur levels could be difficult and expensive for refineries. NBC’s Stephanie Gosk reports.

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>>> the environment could be on a bit of a collision course tonight with the obama administration's new proposals for tighter emissions controls for cars that could, in return, raise the price of gas . our report tonight from nbc's stephanie gosk.

>> reporter: at this rest stop in new jersey, the verdict is clear. cleaner air is good.

>> everyone wants cleaner air.

>> reporter: high gas prices are bad.

>> it's ridiculous. i drive for a living.

>> reporter: but can drivers have one without the other? the epa announced a clean air proposal today that would reduce sulfur emissions by two-thirds and impose new tailpipe emissions standards for 2017 cars and later. the federal agency says that by 2030 , the regulations would prevent as much as 2400 premature deaths and help 23,000 children avoid breathing issues per year. but the proposal would also raise gas prices . by just 1 cent per gallon says the epa.

>> most health benefits of the premature deaths and the respiratory illnesses avoided, that's going to amount to $23 billion of health benefits a year. and if you think about it, paying a penny a gallon for $23 billion in health benefits is a pretty good deal.

>> reporter: critics put the increase at more like 9 cents.

>> 9 cents doesn't sound like a lot. you multiply that by all those billions of gallons sold, it's billions of dollars we're talking about.

>> reporter: reducing sulfur levels could be difficult and expensive for refineries.

>> the refineries will break down more often because of using this technology, especially in the beginning. and that's going to impact gasoline inventories, driving prices higher.

>> reporter: california has already gone through this debate. the state has been rolling in stricter standards for years. since 2003 , smog levels have dropped 50%. california also has some of the most expensive gas in the country.

>> i don't mind paying a little more if it's better for the air here.

>> reporter: right now the average national price of gas is $3.64, down 28 cents from last year. but still high say some drivers.

>> it's quite a hit on the pocket book.

>> reporter: even without new emissions standards , gas under $2 a gallon is a distant memory. aaa says it isn't sure whether or not gas prices have peaked this spring, but when it does peak, they say, it will be lower than it has been in years. the silver lining for people heading out this holiday. brian?

>> stephanie gosk along the fabled new jersey turnpike .

>>> there is word from south africa tonight that nelson mandela