Proposed EPA vehicle emissions standards fail to address biofuels

By Erin Voegele | August 05, 2021

The U.S. EPA on Aug. 5 released a proposed rule to set light-duty vehicle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards through 2026. Despite calls from government officials and industry trade groups, the rule does not address biofuels or a high-octane standard.

The proposed rule aims to revise the SAFE Vehicles Rule finalized by the Trump administration in March 2020. That rule replaced CAFE and GHG emissions standards put in place by the Obama administration. President Biden directed the EPA and U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to revise the existing CAFE and GHG emission standards through an executive order issued in January 2021. 

“Today, EPA takes a major step forward in delivering on President Biden’s ambitious agenda to address the climate crisis and create good paying, union jobs,” said EPA Administrator Michael Regan. “These robust standards are underpinned by sound science and technical expertise, encouraging the development of technology and innovation that will drive America forward into a clean energy future. We are excited about building on the partnerships with states, cities, industry, labor, and NGO stakeholders to realize this vision together.”

The proposed rule would set a industry-wide target of 171 grams of CO2 per mile, or a 52 miles per gallon (mpg) equivalent, for model year 2026 passenger cars and light trucks. That is more stringent than the 205 grams of CO2 per mile, or 43.3 mpg, standard put in place by the current SAFE rule. A previous rule put in place in 2012 would have set the standards at 177 grams of CO2 per mile, or 50.1 mpg.

In July, the Governors Biofuels’ Coalition, members of the High Octane Low Carbon Alliance, and nearly two dozen ag and biofuels groups urged the EPA to propose a higher octane gasoline standard as part of its rulemaking. The proposed rule issued by the agency, however, does not address octane or the potential for biobased fuels to reduce GHG emissions.

Growth Energy issued a statement on Aug. 5 stressing the need for vehicle emissions standards to include biofuels.  “In order for the proposed CAFE standards to effectively address climate change, this rule needs to include a pathway to increase the use of low-carbon, sustainable biofuels like ethanol in our nation’s fuel supply,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy. “We will be providing the Biden Administration a pathway forward that allows biofuels like ethanol to help us meet our climate goals. 

“Liquid fuels will continue to play an important role in the transportation sector, even as alternative technologies continue to flourish,” she added. “Recent independent analysis from the Rhodium Group (2021) found that in order for the U.S. to fully decarbonize the transportation sector, biofuels will have a crucial role in helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions when coupled with EVs. 

“Growth Energy calls on the Biden Administration to continue the momentum on transportation decarbonization by creating long-term market and policy certainty in the biofuels space by fully implementing the RFS, accelerating the transition to E15, and helping harness the power of rural America to drive down emissions from the transportation sector by investing in renewable biofuels,” Skor continued. “We look forward to outlining the environmental and economic benefits of biofuels in our comments to the agency on this proposed rule and continuing to champion biofuels as a solution to decarbonizing transportation today.”