Energy Tomorrow Blog
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 January 31, 2014
We’ve written quite a bit about bad things that could occur because of the Renewable Fuel Standard’s (RFS) mandates for ever-increasing ethanol use in the fuel supply – from potential damage to vehicle engines and small power equipment engines tobroader impacts in the economy. A study by NERA Economic Consulting warned that RFS mandates could lead to fuel rationing and supply shortages that by 2015 could drive up gasoline costs 30 percent and the cost of diesel by 300 percent.
Now EPA is in the last lap in the process to set ethanol use levels for 2014. The agency’s proposal is reduced from where it was in 2013. EPA even acknowledged the ethanol “blend wall” – the point where, to satisfy the RFS, refiners have to blend fuel with higher ethanol content than millions of vehicles are designed to use.
EPA should follow through and set this year’s mandate so we avoid the blend wall and its onerous impacts this year. For a permanent solution, Congress should repeal the RFS.
Posted December 20, 2013
In a recent letter to the Obama administration, some members of Congress pushed officials to increase EPA’s proposed 2014 mandate for biodiesel, arguing that EPA’s plan to keep the mandate at its 2013 level could reduce production by approximately 25 percent. With all due respect, the mandate exists as a floor, not as a ceiling, and the biodiesel industry is welcome to exceed it.
And guess what: The biodiesel industry has been doing just that for the past three years – as the lawmakers’ letter points out. According to EPA, since 2011 the volumes of biomass-based diesel fuels produced have been well above EPA’s mandated requirements.
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 December 2, 2013
As EPA opens a 60-day comment period on its proposals for next year’s required ethanol use levels under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), below is a light-hearted reminder that higher-ethanol blend fuels like E15 – which ethanol supporters advocate as a way to meet RFS mandates – pose significant risks for small engines.
Posted November 15, 2013
Before taking a look at EPA’s proposals for 2014 ethanol use announced Friday, first consider a number that must guide the discussion of how much ethanol America’s refiners should be required to blend into the U.S. fuel supply: 132.65 billion gallons. That’s what the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), projects for 2014 gasoline demand.
Do the simple math. Using the government projection, the U.S. supply of conventional E10 fuel (up to 10 percent ethanol), for which the vast majority of cars and trucks on the road today were designed, would require 13.265 billion gallons of ethanol. If the ethanol mandate in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) required more, then you’re running into the ethanol “blend wall” – that is, to satisfy the RFS, refiners would have to blend fuel with higher ethanol content than millions of vehicles are designed to use.
Posted November 13, 2013
Bloomberg: U.S. crude oil production exceeded imports in October for the first month since February 1995, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said.
Output averaged 7.74 million barrels a day, the Energy Department’s statistical unit said in its monthly Short-Term Energy Outlook. Crude oil net imports were 7.57 million, down from 7.92 million the previous month.
Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, have unlocked supplies in shale formations in North Dakota, Texas and other states. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. crude benchmark, has dropped to below $95 from above $110 in September as domestic output reached a 24-year high.
Posted November 11, 2013
The cost of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) hurts American businesses and consumers as ethanol production drives up food prices, higher-ethanol blend fuels get less mileage than conventional gasoline and higher blends can damage to engines both large and small.
The Historic Vehicle Association (HVA) and others associated with classic cars are especially concerned with the impact on engines that weren’t designed for fuels containing ethanol – much less higher-ethanol blends – at a time when ethanol-free fuel is getting harder to find because the RFS-driven ethanol “blend wall” is forcing E0 gasoline out of the market, reducing choice for consumers. More on ethanol and the RFS from their perspective.
Posted November 8, 2013
The U.S. Department of Energy’s flex-fuel vehicle (FFV) fleet apparently isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. A recent inspector general’s report found that DOE has been fueling its FFVs with regular gasoline instead of E85, eliminating many supposed environmental or cost benefits of having a fleet of cars that can use fuel containing up to 83 percent ethanol.
Two of DOE’s sites leased 854 FFVs at an additional cost of $700,000 over a comparable conventional fleet. In 2011, the managers of the cars were granted waivers for more than 75 percent of the vehicles so they could be filled with conventional fuel, “a practice that provided little or no environmental or economic benefit,” the IG said.
Here’s the significance in the ongoing debate over the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and its mandates for ever-increasing ethanol use: Although the ethanol lobby keeps touting the benefits of FFVs and E85, the situation with DOE’s FFV fleet illustrates the fact that even the government, which was mandated to use the product, didn’t want to use it. This is consistent with the experience of the general public, which hasn’t accepted the use of E85 in their FFVs.