News Story

Expert: Summer gas blends will raise fuel prices

Federal government reports cleanest air since 1970

Gas prices in Michigan will increase this summer when stations switch to summer-grade fuel, a change intended to lower smog levels.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development announced on May 28 that it will start monitoring summer ozone levels on June 1 in Southeast Michigan. The state has over 100 air monitors across 40 locations.

Businesses in Lenawee, Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair, Washtenaw and Wayne counties are subject to the fuel restrictions. 

The summer gasoline program introduced in 1996 monitors violations of the National Ambient Air Quality standard. Michigan must conduct it to continue receiving federal highway funding dollars.

The summer blends used in several states lead to higher gas prices, according to Diana Furchtgott-Roth, director of the Center for Energy, Climate, and Environment at The Heritage Foundation.

“These summer blends are required to be put in place by [the Environmental Protection Agency] due to smog and pollution concerns,” Fuchtgott-Roth wrote in an email, adding that the agency's data shows the targeted pollutants have steadily decreased over the past 20 years.

The EPA announced that due to war in the Middle East and Ukraine, it will continue to allow certain blends to be sold in the summer as a way to lower prices. Furchtgott-Roth says the upcoming election is probably another reason for the decision.

“High gas prices are tremendously unpopular and these are seen by Americans every day,” Furchtgott-Roth wrote.

Between 1970 and 2022, emissions of six noteworthy pollutants decreased by 78%, according to the EPA.

The U.S. Department of Energy says the average price of a gallon of gasoline has risen from $0.39 in 1973 to $3.50 in 2023.

“I suggest that the EPA regulations be rolled back, and states be given permanent flexibility to choose their own blends of gasoline,” Furchtgott-Roth wrote. This way, states could adjust the policy during high gas prices or a recession.

Furchtgott-Roth said the decision should be made before winter because refineries must plan their gasoline deliveries.

The fuel change aims to improve fuel efficiency and reduce smog.

“Summer formula gasoline increases fuel efficiency and helps prevent smog-causing compounds from being released into the atmosphere,” Craig VanBuren, agency laboratory and consumer protection bureau director, said in a statement. “MDARD inspectors will conduct on-site testing during the summer gas season, which runs from June 1 to Sept. 15.”

Statewide, Michigan’s current average gas price per gallon in 2024 is $3.45, according to GasBuddy.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.