At what price do we bring clean air to cities around the United States? To some government agencies and oil refiners, the answer is clear. At an average cost of 2-3 cents per gallon of gasoline, the oxygenate methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE) can significantly reduce toxic automobile emissions and improve air quality in many smog-choked cities throughout the nation. To lawmakers, the answer has been less certain. MTBE has taken center stage in a political debate that has cast doubt on the safety and efficacy of this widely used oxygenate. With advocates and opponents of MTBE deadlocked, policymakers now have turned to scientists to provide crucial data that would help to determine the fate of MTBE.
BACK TO THE BENCH: ASU researcher Jeffrey M. Rousch says scientists have many more questions to answer regarding MTBE.