Bustos introduces bill to create high-octane fuel standard

Source: By Erin Voegele, Ethanol Producer Magazine • Posted: Sunday, August 29, 2021

Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., on Aug. 24 introduced the Next Generation Fuels Act of 2021, a bill that, in part, aims to establish a high-octane, low-carbon fuel standard. Bustos introduced similar legislation in September 2020.

Many representatives of the ethanol industry have spoken out in support of the bill. The American Coalition for Ethanol, however, is calling on Bustos to make changes to the legislation that would better reward efforts made by ethanol producers and farmers to lower the carbon intensity (CI) of the fuels they produce.

The bill, H.R. 5089, includes many provisions of benefit to higher blends of ethanol, including those that address regulatory impediments that have slowed the commercialization of high-octane, low-carbon fuels and the vehicles that consume them. For example, the bill includes provisions that would set a limit on aromatics in gasoline another, ensure that all ethanol blends receive the same Reid vapor pressure (RVP) treatment as E10, and require future vehicles and future retail stations are compatible with higher blends of ethanol.

The legislation aims to establish certification test fuels of 95 research octane number (RON) and 98 RON containing 20-30 percent ethanol. It would also require automobile manufacturers to design and warrant their vehicles for the use of these fuels beginning with model year (MY) 2026.

Under the legislation, the octane used in the fuel must reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by a minimum of 40 percent when compared to a 2021 baseline. U.S. Department of Energy’s GREET model would be used to determine lifecycle emissions of the fuels.

The American Coalition for Ethanol has applauded many provisions of the bill but is urging Bustos to alter the way the legislation handles the required 40 percent reduction in GHG emissions. ACE explained that the high-octane, low-carbon standard requires high-octane fuel to be produced from sources with average lifecycle GHG emissions of 40 percent when measured against the baseline. This is problematic, said ACE, because every ethanol facility has its own unique carbon intensity (CI) and the use of an “average” would shortchange many ethanol producers.

“While this legislation checks much off the ethanol industry wish list, like the previous version, its inadequate approach to carbon accounting would undermine many ACE-member plants and other U.S. dry mill producers who have made investments to reduce the carbon intensity of their ethanol,” said Brian Jennings, CEO of ACE. “The Biden administration and most Members of Congress are focused on how to reach net-zero emissions in the transportation sector by mid-century. Since ethanol is the only transportation fuel that can achieve both net-zero and net-negative emissions, we should push for technology-neutral policy that holds all fuel producers accountable for their individual carbon footprints. This will ensure a growing market for low carbon ethanol in the future despite the hysteria surrounding electric vehicles.”

“Under this legislation, ethanol from a coal-fired ADM facility, whose fuel is nearly as carbon-intensive as gasoline, would get the same access to the market as the most efficient farmer-owned ethanol facility, whose carbon footprint is at least 50 percent cleaner than gasoline, and in most cases 60 to 70 percent cleaner,” Jennings continued. “In other words, the bill as currently drafted would perversely reward ADM for doing nothing to reduce the CI of the fuel produced in its coal-fired facilities and penalize companies like Poet, KAAPA, Little Sioux Corn Processors, Ringneck Energy and dozens like them that have invested in technology innovations to reduce the CI of their fuel.”

“While I share the frustration of people in the corn and ethanol sectors that some in Congress and the Biden administration seem to dismiss the role ethanol can play in reducing GHG emissions, maybe it’s partly because we are unwilling to take responsibility for our carbon footprint and instead choose to celebrate this legislation as a serious decarbonization effort when it is not,” Jennings added. “We cannot pay lip service to net-zero emissions by 2050 and simultaneously expect Congress to give us year-round access for E15 or require E30 compatibility from automakers.”

“If this legislation were improved to allow individual CI scores for ethanol producers and give credit to farmers for practices that reduce emissions from fertilizer use and sequester carbon in the soil, not only would ACE enthusiastically support it, but it would be taken more seriously in Congress,” Jennings said.

The Renewable Fuels Association and Growth Energy issued statements applauding the bill and urging passage of the legislation.

“We commend Congresswoman Bustos and the co-sponsors of the Next Generation Fuels Act for laying out an innovative roadmap to more efficient, more affordable, lower-carbon fuels,” said Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the RFA. “Waiting and hoping for massive growth in battery electric vehicle sales and a greener electricity grid is not the way to address today’s energy security, air quality, and climate concerns. We need real solutions right here, right now. This legislation would ensure cleaner, greener liquid fuels are available in the near term to reduce carbon emissions, improve fuel efficiency and protect human health.”

“The Next Generation Fuels Act represents a clear roadmap for turbo-charging our progress against climate change while offering drivers cleaner, more affordable options at the pump,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy. “With a natural octane of 113, ethanol is the only high-performance, homegrown, renewable fuel ready to immediately loosen the hold that OPEC and its allies in Russia have over U.S. fuel prices, while slashing the use of toxic fuel additives that poison our air. We applaud Reps. Bustos and Comer for working to promote the use of high-octane, low carbon higher biofuel blends that hold enormous potential for rural America’s role in clean energy production.

“This important legislation also directly addresses a recent court decision that threatens to stall the growth of higher biofuel blends like E15, a fuel blended with 15 percent ethanol,” Skor added. “Now more than ever, it’s vital that Congress and the Biden-Harris Administration move quickly to restore certainty for the rural producers and farmers working to deliver clean, affordable, renewable energy to American drivers.”

Following its introduction, the Next Gneration Fuels Act of 2021 was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the House Committee on Ways and Means. To date, Reps. Emanual Cleaver, D-Mo.; Jason Smith, R-Mo.; James Comer, R-Ky.; Darin LaHood, R-Ill.; and Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, have signed on to cosponsor the legislation.