Big news: No more requirement to use ethanol In gasoline!

Source: By Douglas Durante, The • Posted: Friday, September 6, 2013

Well, actually, there never was one. That’s a fact. It also illustrates that the debate over the Renewable Fuel Standard needs more factual basis and less name calling, mud-slinging, rhetoric. As Congress hacks and cuts its way through this briar patch, it is difficult to come to any sensible resolve because so few people seem to actually understand this program.

For example, many members believe there is a requirement to blend corn derived ethanol into gasoline, which is false. Not only is there no requirement to blend corn derived ethanol into gasoline, there is no requirement to blend any ethanol into gasoline.

What is required is that the petroleum industry begins to reverse a hundred years of producing carbon intensive, largely imported fuels that pollute, stifle economic and technology development, and cause us to send billions of consumer dollars to other countries. This would be accomplished by them gradually integrating a slate of broadly defined renewable fuels into the pool.

The oil companies have incredibly, deftly, and with a straight face been able to create an impression that this was none of their doing and that everything was going along just swell until a meddling Congress came along and forced this horrible requirement upon them. The reality is that the RFS was part of an ongoing regulatory action that has been evolving since 1990. It is deeply rooted to the fact that gasoline and most petroleum products represent a serious health threat to the American public and needed to be regulated

For our newer members and staff, or others needing a refresher course, the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990 included a prescribed formula for reformulated gasoline that included an oxygen content, which ethanol provides. Oxygenated fuels promote more complete combustion and reduce carbon monoxide, particulates, and other criteria pollutants. The ancillary benefits of reducing oil imports, stimulating the economy through domestic fuel production, and creating new markets for American agriculture products were bonuses, the proverbial gravy, or icing on the cake.

The petroleum industry begged to be given flexibility in the formula so they would not have to have ethanol or oxygenates in every gallon but could use the same amount in varying quantities at various locations.

Given the other benefits of renewable, domestic fuels, Congress recognized that a host of national objectives would be furthered by the certainty of a floor, or standard. So in granting the petroleum industry this flexibility to have more discretion in how to use ethanol and renewables, it was made clear they were still obligated to use them and be part of the solution to the problems they created. And, Congress said let’s go beyond ethanol and really tap into the broader world of renewables.

Nowhere, anywhere, in the legislation or regulations is anyone required to use ethanol. Sure, it is a practical choice among biofuels but the list of renewables includes other alcohols like butanol, biodiesel, biomass diesel, biomass to liquids to create a bio-crude or a “green gasoline”, and even biogas which generates credits that they can use in lieu of fuel. The list of eligible feedstock to fuel pathways allows for many different ways to meet the goals of the RFS program without relying on the use of corn ethanol.

This is not an ethanol program but rather a broad, ultra-flexible approach that lets the obligated parties choose how to comply. What we are seeing, and where you have to tip your hat to the petroleum industry for their sheer chutzpah, is that they are choosing to not comply and getting away with it by turning the debate into one solely focused on ethanol

To call the program broken and unworkable because there is a limit on the amount of ethanol that can be used in conventional automobiles means they need to turn to these other options. To say consumers do not want higher blends of ethanol is a self-fulfilling statement since they do not offer that product, despite the fact that we have 20 million flexfuel vehicles on the road today. To label cellulosic biofuels as phantom fuels when the technologies are there for them to develop means they simply choose not to do so. They have, quite simply, turned this around to appear to be the aggrieved party.

To whatever extent there needs to be an adult conversation as to volumes, schedules, and other details of the RFS, that conversation needs to be rooted in facts.

Durante is the executive director of the Clean Fuels Development Coalition and was a member of the Regulatory Negotiating Committee for the Mobile Source Provisions of the CAA. He also served on the Ad Hoc Senate Advisory Committee for the RFS.



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