The Environmental Protection Agency's fuel-efficiency rules are forcing drivers to buy higher-priced gasoline, despite decade-low fuel prices, the federal government said Wednesday.

The Energy Department's independent analysis arm, the Energy Information Administration, revealed the trend in data showing that the use of higher-priced premium gasoline reached its highest share in a decade last year. It turns out that the EPA is to blame.

"Although lower gasoline prices may be supporting demand for premium gasoline, the upward trend in sales is more likely driven by changes in fuel requirements for light-duty vehicles in response to increasing fuel economy standards, which will have widespread implications for future gasoline markets," the Energy Information Administration said.

The EPA vehicle rules require that new cars have improved fuel efficiency to spew out fewer greenhouse gases that many scientists blame for causing climate change by heating the Earth's atmosphere. For automakers to meet the regulations, they have to rely on smaller engines and more turbocharging to hit the mileage standards and reduce emissions. That requires new cars to use premium gasoline, which costs more.

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