Energy Tomorrow Blog
Posted September 2, 2015
Finalized federal requirements for ethanol use in 2014, 2015 and 2016 under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) are scheduled to come out later this year. As EPA completes work on them, the interests of American consumers should be put ahead of special ethanol interests. At the same time, policymakers should recognize that the RFS is broken, out of date and should be repealed.
Ethanol supporters argue that RFS mandates can be met by pushing out more E15 and E85 fuel, which contain higher levels of ethanol than E10 gasoline that’s standard across the country. But this would disregard potential risks to consumers and small businesses. A number of organizations argue that point in official comments to EPA on the RFS, which can be found here.
Posted August 19, 2015
There’s more scholarly research challenging the oft-heard claim that the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and its requirements for increasing use of biofuels is good for the environment and climate.
Now a paper published this month by University of Michigan Energy Institute researchers argues that the government-sponsored model used to calculate biofuels’ carbon footprint is flawed. The paper says a more accurate accounting method shows that corn ethanol doesn’t have an edge over petroleum gasoline when it comes to reducing CO2 emissions.
Research by the institute’s John DeCicco and Rashmi Krishnan (sponsored by API) found that assumed biofuel carbon neutrality that’s built into the government-sponsored model “does not hold up for real-world biofuel production.”
Posted August 7, 2015
NASCAR racing team owner Richard Childress has an op-ed in the Charlotte Observer this week in which he renders a full-throttle endorsement of E15 gasoline and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the federal program that requires more and more ethanol be blended into the nation’s fuel supply.
Childress focuses on the specially formulated E15 (98 octane rating, compared to 90 octane in retail E15) that NASCAR uses in its customized, high-performance engines (725 horsepower, compared to 120 horsepower in a typical car engine, up to 200 horsepower in a large SUV).
Certainly, NASCAR racecars and the NASCAR-blend E15 are well-suited for each other. Less clear is why Childress is so enthusiastic about putting commercial-grade E15 in a car or truck, especially those built between 2001 and 2013 – something most car manufacturers don’t recommend.
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 July 17, 2015
Lots of people are concerned that increasing the presence of E15 in the nation’s fuel supply could have adverse impacts on devices powered by gasoline.
Studies show E15 can damage engines and fuel systems in cars and trucks that weren’t designed to use it. (Click here for a matrix that shows most vehicles on the road today aren’t recommended for operating on E15 by manufacturers.) Motorcycles and outdoor power equipment could be negatively affected by using E15, too.
That’s a concern of marine engine manufacturers and boating enthusiasts as well.
Posted July 16, 2015
Motorcycles aren’t designed to use higher ethanol-blend fuels like E15, and the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) warns that using E15 in a motorcycle can void its warranty. There’s serious concern about inadvertent misfueling, as well as the possibility that the push for more E15 in the fuel supply could out E0 (gasoline containing zero ethanol).
Posted July 15, 2015
While the potential negative impacts of E15 fuel on machines that weren’t designed to use it – from vehicles to outboard marine engines and weed-eaters – isn’t funny, some humor can help illustrate important points in that key public policy debate.
API has three new cartoons that take a light-hearted look at the potential harm from using E15 – containing up to 50 percent more ethanol than E10 gasoline that’s standard across the country – in outdoor equipment, boat motors and motorcycles. Today, outdoor power equipment.
Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), has warned against using E15 in lawnmowers and other outdoor gear because they can cause permanent damage.
Posted June 17, 2015
Quick rewind to 2007, when Congress enacted the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): The U.S. faced energy challenges – declining domestic production leading to greater dependence on imports and ever-increasing consumer costs. The RFS was conceived as a way to spur production of advanced biofuels that would help on imports and costs.
Today the energy landscape has completely changed. Thanks to surging domestic production from shale and other tight-rock formations with advanced hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, the United States is No. 1 in the world in the production of petroleum and natural gas hydrocarbons. Our imports are falling, and consumers have enjoyed lower prices at the pump.
Yet, the RFS remains – with its mandates for increasing use of ethanol in the fuel supply, seemingly impervious to the changed energy landscape, even as increased domestic oil production has checked off RFS objectives one by one. Even EPA’s latest proposal for ethanol use, while acknowledging that the RFS has serious flaws, continues to try to manage the behavior of markets and consumers, ironically leaving both on the sidelines.
That was the message in a telephone briefing with reporters hosted by API President and CEO Jack Gerard. Joining the call were Wayne Allard of the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), Heather White of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Rob Green of the National Council of Chain Restaurants (NCCR).
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.