Senate staffers, stakeholders discuss high-octane fuel standard

Source: Maxine Joselow, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Talk of a possible national high-octane fuel standard dominated a meeting Friday of ethanol promoters, oil interests, an automakers group and staffers for six Senate Republicans.

High-octane fuel is generally supported by corn growers and refiners, as ethanol is currently the cheapest octane source. It’s also supported generally by automakers because it improves the efficiency of internal combustion engines.

A high-octane fuel standard could improve coordination between two major federal regulations: the renewable fuel standard (RFS) and corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards.

The Friday meeting was organized by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and focused on a performance standard requiring a minimum research octane number (RON) of 95.

“Senator Cornyn is working hard to unify all stakeholders in a consensus effort to reform the Renewable Fuel Standard,” a Cornyn spokeswoman said in an email. She declined to provide details.

The Fuels Institute and an automakers group gave a presentation at the meeting, which was also attended by staffers for Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst of Iowa, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Deb Fischer of Nebraska. Representatives from the American Petroleum Institute and the Renewable Fuels Association were also present.

John Eichberger, executive director of the Fuels Institute, said he spoke for about 45 minutes about research from the nonprofit that will be published in June.

Automakers are looking at making high-compression engines that burn high-octane fuels as the best method for meeting higher mileage standards. Another method, of course, is ramping up production of electric vehicles. Eichberger said there was talk of EVs at the meeting.

“The liquid fuels industry has an opportunity to come together and work with the auto industry to help improve the efficiency of internal combustion engines,” Eichberger said. “In the absence of doing so, the auto industry has no choice but to accelerate electrification.”

He added, “In the big picture, it’s going to take a very long time before electric vehicles represent more than 15 percent of vehicles on the market. So it’s important to improve efficiency of internal combustion engines because they’re not going away.”

At a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment hearing earlier this month, Republicans and witnesses expressed broad support for a 95-RON performance standard (Greenwire, April 13). But Chet Thompson, president and CEO of American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, said implementing a 95-RON performance standard “could only be done in lieu of — not in addition to — the RFS.”

It’s unclear which automakers group was at the meeting. A spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents 12 of the largest car manufacturers, said he wasn’t aware of the get-together.