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Bye Bye Benzene


Thanks to pressure from trusty environmental groups, refineries are going to have to cut the amount of benzene—one of the pollutants that wafts out of your car’s gas tank—by 2011. New regulations approved by the Bush administration will reduce emissions, including the cancer-causing chemical, by 80 percent, according to an article in the Washington Post:

Among air pollutants, benzene -- which naturally occurs in crude oil and is increased through refining to boost gasoline's octane rating -- poses the second-biggest cancer risk to Americans, after diesel emissions. In 2004 it constituted 1 percent of U.S. gas on average; under the new rule benzene levels will drop to an average of 0.62 percent.

The new regulations are the result of a 2004 federal court case in which environmental groups sued the EPA. The new rules allow for a trading system, which some environmentalists think is a bad idea, but they did relish in their success: 

“We're happy that EPA has addressed this important public health issue at last, even if it did take a federal court case to make the agency act," said Marti Sinclair, a volunteer for the advocacy group Sierra Club. "But it is disappointing that EPA would undermine its own program by adopting this dangerous trading scheme.

 Environmentalists would also like the government to reduce the amount of other hazardous chemicals in gasoline, but the benzene restrictions are a step in the right direction.