Improving Ethanol’s Outlook

FROM THE NOVEMBER ISSUE: Fuel economy standards help make the case for midlevel ethanol blends.
By Chris Bliley | October 17, 2018

As countries begin to examine ways to achieve their own climate goals, particularly in the transportation sector, many are implementing more stringent fuel economy standards. Automakers are responding by making smaller, higher-compression engines that demand higher octane. Improved engines are the first step toward achieving mid-level ethanol blends such as E25 and E30. Growth Energy has been central to improving the outlook for ethanol blended fuel, at home and across the globe.

Growth Energy has long worked with industry allies and engaged with past administrations to unite the voice of biofuels to ensure higher blends. E30 would improve fuel economy standards, reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and other harmful air pollutants such as carbon monoxide, and reduce consumer costs at the pump.

Leading the way in 2012, Growth Energy was the first to call on EPA and the state of California to use E30 for vehicle certification and consumer use, as the state developed more stringent fuel economy standards. We continued the effort to include midlevel ethanol blends in 2013 when we submitted comments to the U.S. EPA on its proposal for Tier 3 fuel regulation. Because of those efforts, we successfully secured some limited ability for automakers to use alternative fuels for certification in the final rule.

Further, we were one of the founding members of the Ag-Auto-Ethanol Working Group, whose members include the Renewable Fuels Association, the American Coalition for Ethanol, state corn grower organizations, U.S. auto manufacturers, and ag companies like Deere and Monsanto, among many others. This group has worked diligently to answer the questions of automakers and lawmakers on the retail, life cycle emissions, cost and availability of midlevel ethanol blends.

The industry continued its call for high-octane, midlevel ethanol blends with both the Obama and Trump administrations during their midterm evaluations of vehicle standards. Under the Obama administration, far more stringent standards were established that were set to continue increasing through 2026. The Trump administration has, however, attempted to freeze those standards in its latest proposal to U.S. EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This new proposal would keep Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards at 2020 levels moving forward and revoke the ability for states to implement their own, more stringent, vehicle standards or electric vehicle mandates. While the outcome is unclear, we expect California to fight the most recent proposal, in an attempt to maintain its own standards above federal regulations.

Despite this potential conflict with California, the current proposal’s explicit recognition of the benefits of high-octane fuels through greater engine efficiency is a major step forward. The inherent octane advantages of ethanol paired with its reduced cost and significantly reduced GHG emissions make it the pre-eminent fuel additive under this proposal’s stated goals. EPA and NHTSA are asking specifically about how higher-octane fuels can help meet these standards. It presents a golden opportunity for our industry to echo the winning arguments for ethanol, as we have done time and time again. The U.S. is increasingly recognizing the benefits of biofuels.


Author: Chris Bliley
Vice President of Regulatory Affairs
Growth Energy
202.545.4000
cbliley@growthenergy.org