Energy Tomorrow Blog
Posted October 28, 2015
Next month EPA is scheduled to finalize 2014, 2015 and 2016 ethanol-use requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) – and where EPA sets the volume standards could have big impacts on consumers and our economy.
We’ve been talking about flaws in the RFS for some time, and the chorus of voices has grown because requiring increasing volumes of ethanol in the nation’s fuel supply could affect vehicle owners, consumers paying for fuel and food, the environment and the global food supply.
Posted July 27, 2015
More tools in the debate over the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Fill Up On Facts.com has posted four short videos highlighting some of the disconnects between the original reasoning behind the RFS and the world we live in today – which is why the program should be fundamentally revamped, if not repealed.
Video No. 1 discusses the potential risks to vehicles from using E15 fuel – seen by some as a way to absorb all of the ethanol mandated by the RFS above what can safely be blended as standard E10 gasoline – the ethanol “blend wall.”
Other videos show that the founding assumptions behind the RFS are disconnected from today’s reality.
Posted July 21, 2015
With another congressional hearing on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) scheduled this week, a couple of glimpses behind the curtain at EPA help explain why the RFS is dysfunctional and needs to be repealed or dramatically overhauled.
Glimpse No. 1 comes from a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing last month, chaired by Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma. The witness was EPA’s Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for the office of air and radiation. Tune in at about the 1-hour, 24-minute mark of the archived video to see Lankford’s discussion with McCabe about how EPA sets annual ethanol use requirements under the RFS.
The overriding issue is the ethanol “blend wall” – the point where the RFS requires blending more ethanol into the national fuel supply than can be used in E10 gasoline. At that point some think that higher ethanol-blend fuels like E15 and E85 will help meet RFS ethanol mandates. But E15 can cause damage to engines and fuel systems in vehicles that weren’t designed to use it – as well as outdoor power equipment, boats and motorcycles. And E85 is less energy-dense than standard gasoline – getting fewer miles to the gallon. It represents a tiny fraction of overall gasoline demand, a strong signal from consumers.
Posted June 26, 2015
API Downstream Group Director Bob Greco traveled this week to EPA’s field hearing on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in Kansas City, to detail concerns over the flawed program, with its market-distorting mandates for ever-increasing use of ethanol in the national fuel supply. His remarks, as prepared for delivery:
The Ethanol Blend Wall
Our members’ primary RFS concern is the ethanol blend wall. Serious vehicle and retail infrastructure compatibility issues exist with gasoline containing more than 10 percent ethanol. We are encouraged that EPA has proposed to address this reality.
Gasoline demand increases projected in 2007 did not materialize, and Congress granted EPA the authority to balance its aspirational goals with reality. API supports EPA’s use of its explicit RFS waiver authorities in 2014, ‘15, ‘16, and beyond to avoid negative impacts on America’s fuel supply and to prevent harm to American consumers.
Posted March 11, 2015
To the chorus of voices sounding the alarm on the broken Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) – AAA, automakers, outdoor power equipment manufacturers, marine manufacturers, turkey and chicken producers, restaurant companies, grocery manufacturers, environmental non-profits and anti-hunger groups – add another: the advanced biofuels industry.
Given the fact the RFS was designed to encourage development of advanced and cellulosic biofuels, the Advanced Biofuels Association’s call for significant RFS reform is a game-changer in the ongoing public policy debate. ABFA President Michael McAdams at this week’s Advanced Bioeconomy Leadership Conference:
“… the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) – the very tool that was created to foster our industry – has become one of the greatest obstacles to continued development of the advanced and cellulosic biofuel industry due to inconsistent and poor implementation.”
The issue is the way the RFS, through annual ethanol mandates, has resulted in ever-increasing production of ethanol made from corn – versus ethanol and other biofuels made from non-food feedstocks.
Posted March 4, 2015
Let’s update an informative chart that’s critical in the continuing discussion of E15 fuel and the ethanol mandates of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
It lists, by vehicle manufacturers and model years, whether a specific manufacturer recommends operation of its vehicles on E15, which contains 50 percent more ethanol than the E10 fuel that’s prevalent across the country. We’ve posted the manufacturers/model years grid a number of times (including here and here), but this chart s updated to include the 2015 model year.
Posted February 25, 2015
The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and its mandates for increasing use of ethanol continue to be debated publicly – in Congress, where lawmakers could vote to repeal the dysfunctional program and in places like Chicago, where service stations could be forced to carry higher-ethanol blend E15 fuel.
The Fill Up On Facts website is a great resource on the RFS, ethanol mandates and related issues. Information is available on the RFS itself, as well as problems that have made the program and its ethanol mandates untenable – like the refining “blend wall,” potential risks to vehicle and equipment engines and impacts on food prices.
Posted December 12, 2014
Posted October 20, 2014
The Obama administration is trying to balance its support for renewable fuels with awareness of infrastructure constraints at gas stations as it finalizes targets for 2014 biofuel use, agency officials said on Tuesday. But with only 11 weeks left in the year, the administration also needs to weigh oil refiners' ability to comply with the long-delayed requirements, one official told the Reuters Global Climate Change Summit.
The article goes on to quote Janet McCabe, who leads EPA’s division overseeing the biofuels program:
(McCabe) acknowledged that delays in setting the targets, formally called the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), should be taken into account. "We need to be mindful of where we are in the year," McCabe said …
Reuters reports that EPA had proposed lowering ethanol mandates for 2014 because the U.S. was on a collision course with the 10 percent blend wall – the point where RFS mandates will require ethanol to be blended into gasoline at levels higher than the 10 percent fuel (E10) for which most of today’s vehicles were designed.
Posted October 8, 2014
Others are picking up on how late EPA is in setting this year’s ethanol use requirements – as well as how political calculations appear to be affecting the administration’s management of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Politico (subscription required) has this:
The Obama administration is nearly a year late in setting its 2014 biofuels mandate, but both ethanol supporters and critics say with politics at play, the White House may delay its decision until after the midterm elections.
Several sources following the issue closely say that the White House hoped that boosting the overall volumes would be enough to act as a boon to (Democrat Bruce Braley in Iowa’s U.S. Senate race). But renewable fuels advocates in the state aren’t happy with that compromise, so anything short of a clear victory for ethanol makers could hurt Braley’s campaign. … “If they increase the number, but it’s still tied to the (ethanol) blend wall, in our view, they will have killed the program, and that will be seen as a huge loss for Braley, and they’ll wait until after the election,” said one person in the biofuels industry. “If it’s good for Braley, it’ll be before the election. If it’s bad for Braley, it’ll be a punt. And people will see the punt.”
Indeed they will. They can’t help but see energy policy being contorted to serve political ends. It’s no way to conduct energy policy, and it’s no way to treat Americans who ultimately could be impacted by decisions (or the lack thereof) under the RFS.