Energy Tomorrow Blog
Posted May 29, 2015
With EPA already embarrassingly late in setting requirements for ethanol in the fuel supply for 2014 (due 18 months ago) and 2015 (due six months ago), the agency finally has proposals for those years and 2016 that would continue to drive ethanol use – though not at levels dictated by the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
Top EPA official Janet McCabe called the proposals “ambitious, but responsible.” We’ll agree on the ambitious part – in that it takes a whole lot of something to thread the needle between marketplace realities and the flawed RFS – difficult for the nimblest of bureaucracies, much less a regulatory colossus like EPA.
Unfortunately, EPA comes up short, particularly for 2016. An RFS program that long ago went awry remains lost in the tall weeds of process over substance.
Posted November 3, 2014
Sometimes the public policy debate occurs at an academic level, and it’s easy to overlook the impact on real Americans. A good example is the campaign to push higher ethanol-blend fuels into the marketplace, which could negatively affect millions of consumers and hinder the broader economy. True enough, but we should also look at the real-world impacts of forcing increasing levels of ethanol into the fuel supply, impacts on individual Americans like Russell Garcia in Chicago.
Garcia owns five independent service stations in Chicago. He recently wrote a letter to the editor of the Chicago Tribune to point out the consequences of a city council proposal to require Chicago gas stations to carry E15 gasoline – fuel containing up to 15 percent ethanol, 50 percent more ethanol than the E10 gasoline that’s prevalent across the country.
Garcia wrote that E15 won’t deliver benefits promised by proponents, such as cost savings and environmental improvements. Instead, he wrote, it would impact consumers and small business owners like himself and ultimately be worse for the environment.
Posted September 11, 2014
Mixing politics and energy makes for bad energy policy. Exhibit A: the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
We’ve posted a couple of times (here and here) on EPA’s failure to be on time with its annual requirements for ethanol use, which is critical for refiners to comply with the law. If you missed it, the 2014 requirements were due Nov. 30, 2013, nine months ago. That’s a broken program. Now politics may enter in where it shouldn’t.
Posted August 27, 2014
There was an interesting article last year from Ian Boyd, a chief scientific adviser in the government of the United Kingdom. In it Boyd looks at the role that science plays in public policy, including this clarification and warning:
Strictly speaking, the role of science should be to provide information to those having to make decisions, including the public, and to ensure that the uncertainties around that information are made clear. When scientists start to stray into providing views about whether decisions based upon the evidence are right or wrong they risk being politicised.
This comes to mind with a recent Huffington Post article lauding a proposal that would require Chicago service stations to offer E15 fuel, authored by Michael Wang and Jennifer Dunn, scientists with the Argonne National Laboratory.
Wang and Dunn write that mandating E15 – containing 50 percent more ethanol than the E10 gasoline that’s the staple of the U.S. fuel supply – is a “step in the right direction,” because of its environmental benefits. Actually, the Chicago ethanol mandate would be a giant leap backward for consumers, small business owners and, yes, the environment.
Posted August 20, 2014
Other voices continue to weigh in on the higher-ethanol blend fuels, E15 and E85. Three associations representing independent petroleum marketing companies and fuel retail outlets have written the White House, expressing concern for the fuels’ compatibility with the nation’s vehicular fleet and consumer acceptance.
In separate letters to John Podesta, White House counselor for energy and climate policy – the Petroleum Marketers Association of America (PMAA) in one and the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America (SIGMA) and the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) in another – the associations caution that pushing more and more E15 and E85 into the fuel supply could cause problems for retailers and consumers.
Posted March 25, 2014
Check out our new ads on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) – including a video that highlights in a humorous way the potential negative impacts for consumers from RFS mandates that force higher ethanol blends into the marketplace.
Unfunny would be seeing boaters left high and (not so) dry because their marine engine conked out, damaged by higher ethanol-blend fuel. Or stranded motorists, or home owners with outdoor equipment ruined by using fuel with more ethanol content than the mower or trimmer was designed to use. These are the real-world stakes in the current debate over the RFS and its ethanol mandates.
Posted February 24, 2014
In recent years we’ve regularly disagreed with the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) because its ethanol mandates could harm consumers and the broader economy. The conversation with Big Ethanol has been, well, spirited. That said, hats off to RFA for including an oil and natural gas industry executive as one of the keynote speakers at the recent National Ethanol Conference (NEC).
Marathon Petroleum’s David Whikehart, director of product supply and optimization, was invited, said RFA’s Bob Dinneen, because “it is critical that we be open to the message of our customer.” A constructive view for sure.
The oil and natural gas industry supports ethanol and other renewable fuels. We are the ethanol industry’s biggest customer. Yet, the ethanol mandates in the RFS potentially could result in damaged vehicle engines as well as powerand marine equipment and already have played a part in higher food costs and other consumer impacts recently. All of the above threaten to erode critical public support for renewable fuels, which is why the RFS should be repealed.
Posted December 10, 2013
EPA held the first of a series of public hearings last week on its 2014 ethanol use proposals under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), during which the National Chicken Council’s Mike Brown observed that the Washington, D.C., hearing basically attracted three groups of people: ethanol producers, corn producers and “the rest of us.”
Quite a bit of truth there. The debate over the RFS finds ethanol backers fairly isolated in arguing that the RFS is fine the way it is and that higher-ethanol blend fuels – like E15 and E85 – should be pushed more aggressively into the marketplace to satisfy the program’s mandates.
The stance has them at odds a number of interests, including consumer and food groups, auto manufacturers, the makers of small-engine vehicles and equipment, turkey and chicken producers, restaurant owners and more. Strikingly, AAA, the venerable travel/motoring organization, has been criticized by Big Ethanol for opposing wider use of E15, which studies have shown could damage engines in vehicles not designed to use it.
Posted December 4, 2013
With the first public hearing on EPA proposals for 2014 ethanol use scheduled Thursday, policymakers should pay attention to how ethanol mandates under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) are affecting regular Americans.
This theme was recurrent during a gathering of diverse, consumer-oriented groups on the eve of EPA’s hearing: RFS mandates are negatively impacting everyday American life, from the fuels we use to the costs of what we eat, and could do additional harm unless Congress takes major action.
Posted November 22, 2013
Three new papers released by Iowa State University’s Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (CARD) try to portray E85 fuel as both a solution to the ethanol “blend wall” created by the Renewable Fuel Standard’s (RFS) mandates and as a reason to set ethanol volume mandates beyond what can safely be consumed as conventional E10 gasoline. Unfortunately, the papers contain deficiencies, omit key facts, rely too much on hoped-for outcomes and confuse the role of consumers and market signals.