Q Gas engines are much more efficient today, and there is a growing number of alternatives that use little or no gas. So is the "special blend" for California really still necessary? Why do we still need a rare blend of gas, different from the rest of America?

Isn't it time to kill off the dinosaur?

Mike Cook

Fremont

A No, but I understand your pain. When there are supply problems for our unique brand of smog-busting gas, prices can soar and recently were 90 cents more a gallon than the U.S. average. Now the gap is around 63 cents.

Shell station in the shadow of a refinery, Martinez, Calif.  (Susan Tripp Pollard/Staff)
Shell station in the shadow of a refinery, Martinez, Calif. (Susan Tripp Pollard/Staff) ( SUSAN TRIPP POLLARD )

Q Why doesn't the rest of the country start using the same blend of gas as California does? This would be a good time to do it since prices are so low (outside of California, that is) that the rest of the country would not notice any change in prices. So, who benefits? The country will have cleaner air, and, hopefully, California will have cheaper prices in line with the rest of the country.

Robert Church

A I turn to my power-hitter on this heated issue, Severin-the-Energy-Man, who says:


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"The U.S. isn't going to be pressured into using California's blend specifications. Oh, if only California had that sort of power. ... There is strong evidence that California's blend has significant positive effects on air quality, much more so than federal reformulated gasoline. Maybe it is time to revisit having a separate blend, but I suspect a serious analysis would not recommend going back to the more-polluting federal reformulation."

A 2011 report concluded that federal reformulated gas has had minimal effect on ozone pollution, while California's gas significantly improved air quality and reduced ground-level ozone concentrations by 16 percent in the severely polluted Los Angeles-San Diego area. Statewide, that translates into 660 saved lives a year.

Q We should be proud to pay for cleaner air, and we should encourage other states to do the same. Imagine how much we'll save in health care costs across the country related to asthma in children and breathing problems in seniors if we all pay to clean our fuel. Maybe we would even move sooner as a nation to adopt hybrids, electric vehicles, smaller vehicles, etc. It's all connected, people.

Helen Harris

Palo Alto

A That it is. I wish the state would temporarily allow gas from other states to be delivered here when there are major refinery problems. That idea was floated a few years ago.

Q I think a compromise might be in order. Tax electric cars -- the more you drive, the more you pay. Raise the gas tax for the rest of us. For goodness' sake, 20 years is too long to go without an increase. Finally, make sure the money raised really goes to fix our roads.

Yes, I am a dreamer.

Tina Rivera

San Jose

A Maybe not. Legislation pending in Sacramento would slap a $100 annual fee on a plug-in hybrids and electric cars. And the state will test charging drivers based on the miles they drive.

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