Aug 29, 2022 - News

Why gas prices in Denver will increase in 2024

A hazy view of the downtown Denver skyline from Sloan Lake. Photo: Hyoung Chang/Denver Post via Getty Images
A hazy view of the downtown Denver skyline from Sloan Lake. Photo: Hyoung Chang/Denver Post via Getty Images

Denver's persistent smog will force its drivers to pay more for gas starting in summer 2024.

Why it matters: The pending price hike is top of mind as the EPA prepares to act this fall and it is putting pressure on Gov. Jared Polis just as he seeks re-election.

State of play: This fall, U.S. environmental officials are poised to reclassify the northern Front Range as a "severe" violator of federal ozone standards, a downgrade from the current "serious" level.

  • The move would force gas stations to sell reformulated fuel that is designed to burn cleaner and pollute less as part of broader measures to reduce smog.

By the numbers: The price per gallon of gas would increase 20 to 30 cents, according to AAA Colorado analysis, but eventually moderate. An oil and gas industry estimate puts the added cost closer to 51 cents per gallon, the Denver Post reports.

  • “It’s going to hurt our wallets," AAA spokesperson Skyler McKinley said.

The intrigue: Polis set the state on a path toward tougher enforcement in 2019 after he declined to seek a delay for the state to meet the federal ozone benchmarks.

  • Now, he wants the federal government to not impose the reformulated gas mandate and questioned its effectiveness.
  • Instead, he argues the state's push to put more electric vehicles on the road is better.

The other side: Environmental advocates who typically align with the governor object to the effort to skirt the rules. “They had chance after chance to avoid this situation. And rather than take the steps they needed to, they blew it,” Jeremy Nichols, director of the climate and energy program for WildEarth Guardians, told CPR.

The big picture: About 25% of the gasoline sold in the U.S. is reformulated, and high-smog areas in 16 states and the District of Columbia are under federal mandates to use it, according to the EPA.

  • The cities on the list include: Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Chicago and Houston.
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