Fox News Attacks EPA For Addressing Smog Pollution

In response to a new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation on sulfur in gasoline, Fox News misinformed viewers about the health benefits of reducing sulfur, which contributes to smog, and overstated even the claims of the oil industry about the costs of the rule.

Fox Contributor: No “Clear Benefits” To EPA Standard Reducing Smog

Fox's Byron York Claims High Cost And No “Clear Benefits” To New EPA Regulation. On the March 3 edition of America's Newsroom, Fox contributor Byron York attacked new EPA regulations that will reduce sulfur in gasoline blends. When asked by co-host Martha MacCallum if the health-benefits are worth increased prices, York claimed that “you'll pay a dime more for gas” and that “there's questions about whether this has any health benefits.” [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 3/3/14]

Experts: Rule Brings Significant Health Benefits For Less Than A Penny

American Lung Association: Rule Will Save Up To 2,000 Lives Per Year. The American Lung Association wrote in a press release about the rule that it “will save up to 2,000 lives, and prevent 19,000 asthma attacks and nearly 300,000 missed days of work and school each year by 2030” :

“Cars, light trucks, and SUVs are major sources of pollution that can harm the health of our most vulnerable family members and neighbors, including those who suffer from asthma, lung and heart disease, as well as those who live, work and go to school near major roadways,” said Harold Wimmer, national president and CEO of the American Lung Association. “We thank the Obama Administration and Environmental Protection Agency for putting these critical public health safeguards in place to protect communities across the nation.”            

Lower sulfur gasoline cleans up every car on the road because their pollution control systems will work more efficiently immediately. Lower sulfur gasoline will reduce as much pollution from the current vehicle fleet as taking 33 million cars off the road.

Once fully implemented, these clean air protections will save up to 2,000 lives, and prevent 19,000 asthma attacks and nearly 300,000 missed days of work and school each year by 2030. As the Lung Association reported last year, independent economists estimate we could achieve these benefits for less than one cent per gallon of gasoline. [American Lung Association, 3/3/14

Studies: Sulfur Regulations Will Cost Less Than A Penny Per Gallon. An independent organization found that the rule “would cost less than one cent per gallon if refineries passed on all costs to consumers.” The group's findings mirrored the EPA's own estimate that the regulations will only raise gas prices “on average 0.65 cent (i.e., less than a penny) per gallon of gasoline” :

According to BusinessWire, a study by Navigant Economics found that sulfur regulations would cost less than one cent per gallon if refineries passed on all costs to consumers:

Setting aside the offsetting social benefits, Schink and Singer show that the private modification costs to U.S. refineries, when expressed on a cents-per-gallon basis, are de minimus: the retail price of gasoline would rise by at most one cent per gallon.

“To reach that one-cent-per gallon estimate, however, refineries must pass 100 percent of their (largely fixed) cost increases along to consumers,” comments Singer. “But a statistical analysis of prior EPA sulfur regulations suggests that refineries do not adhere to that practice.” [Business Wire, 6/14/2012]

Fox Exaggerated The Oil Industry's “Outdated” Cost Estimate. York's claim that the rule will raise gas prices by a “dime” is an exaggeration of a study by the American Petroleum Institute, a trade association for the gas and oil industry that lobbies on their behalf. That study estimated that the rule would raise gas prices by 6 to 9 cents, but EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said the estimate was “outdated” as it didn't take into account flexibility that the EPA later added in. Retrospective analyses have found that industries often exaggerate the cost of regulations affecting them. [Associated Press, 3/3/14; NRDC, 2/2/11]

EPA Rule Has Bipartisan Support

Even Fox's Krauthammer Called The EPA's Proposal A “Good Regulation.” On the April 1, 2013 edition of Special Report, Fox News contributor Charles Krauthammer told viewers regulations on sulfur would be “good regulation” :

KRAUTHAMMER: I think what is important is to discriminate the good regulation from the bad regulation. This, I think, is a good regulation. [Fox News,Special Report, 4/1/13]

Republican Governor On Sulfur Rule: “Dirty Air Is Not A Partisan Issue.” The New York Times reported that Republican politicians such as Gov. Herbert (R-UT)  also support the rule, which will reduce smog:

The Environmental Protection Agency plans to unveil a major new regulation on Monday that forces oil refiners to strip out sulfur, a smog-forming pollutant linked to respiratory disease, from American gasoline blends, according to people familiar with the agency's plans.


During the 2012 presidential campaign, the forthcoming gasoline rule was a hotly contested political target. Republicans criticized it as an example of what they called the Obama administration's regulatory overreach.

But since the presidential election, some Republicans have said they welcome the rule. Gov. Gary R. Herbert of Utah, a conservative Republican, said that because of mountain weather patterns, tailpipe smog is often trapped around Salt Lake City, giving his state many days with “gunky air that rivals L.A.”

Mr. Herbert said the new rule would help clean up his state's air. “We've got to find a way to eliminate that with cleaner fuels and cleaner autos,” he said in an interview. “Dirty air is not a partisan issue. The fact that we have technology that's available -- cleaner burning fuels, cleaner burning autos -- we ought to embrace that.” [The New York Times, 3/3/14]