EPA should consider consumer fuel preferences — API

Source: Marc Heller, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, April 10, 2017

In deciding how much ethanol to require for the U.S. fuel supply next year, U.S. EPA should consider consumers who don’t want any at all, a trade group for oil and gas companies said today.

Frank Macchiarola, downstream group director for the American Petroleum Institute, said EPA should weigh demand for ethanol-free fuel as it proposes renewable fuel volumes for 2018.

“We’re confident that they’re going to be fair,” Macchiarola said in a conference call with reporters. He said he expects the agency to make an announcement by early May, which is the typical time frame.

In a continuing public relations battle over federal renewable fuel mandates, Macchiarola suggested momentum is moving toward scaling back the requirement, and API released a poll showing 68 percent of registered voters concerned about the government requiring more ethanol in gasoline.

In addition, 74 percent of respondents said increased government regulation leads to higher fuel prices, the API said.

“Consumers have spoken loud and clear,” Macchiarola said.

The Renewable Fuels Association said in a news release that consumers have a clear opinion in the other direction. Sixty percent of respondents in a poll sponsored by the RFA said they support the renewable fuel standard, the organization said.

The RFA said API polls have been based on questions biased against the fuel mandate.

EPA’s announcement on fuel volume could provide a clear indication of where the administration leans on ethanol. The agency can prescribe volumes lower than congressional mandates based upon market conditions and other considerations.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration has said consumers’ use of E0 fuel has declined in recent years, but the API has said demand is strong and that the RFS threatens to make E0 unavailable. Higher-ethanol fuels aren’t appropriate for some boats and small engines, manufacturers say.

The EIA’s last estimate of E0 use was in May 2016, a spokesman said. It showed use dipping below 6 billion gallons in 2014 and 2015.

Macchiarola said the API will keep pushing for legislation limiting or repealing the RFS. Although such bills haven’t advanced, they have picked up increasing numbers of co-sponsors, he said.

“You have to keep at it,” Macchiarola said.