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WASHINGTON -- Experts say the massive energy bill passed by Congress last week is likely to shrink the nation's gasoline supplies, thereby boosting fuel prices.
The measure eliminates the congressional mandate, in place since 1977, supporting the use of the gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether, which reduces smog caused by automobile emissions, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
President Bush is expected to sign the 1,700-page bill this month, with the change becoming effective in about 270 days.
"This is going to be the biggest step the industry has taken since we phased out lead in the 1970s," Gene Edwards, s.v.p. of Valero Energy Corp., told the Journal. He estimates his company will lose about 60,000 barrels a day of gasoline production next spring because it will take as long as two years to reconfigure its refineries to use another additive.
If other U.S. refineries follow suit, Edwards said U.S. gasoline production might fall short of usual levels by about 258,000 barrels a day -- the equivalent of losing four major refineries.
Larry Goldstein, president of the Petroleum Industry Research Foundation, told the Journal, "Everything (Congress) did was to raise the cost to consumers."