Ethanol groups testify at EPA hearing on CAFE-GHG standards

By Erin Voegele | September 07, 2017

Growth Energy, the American Coalition for Ethanol and the Renewable Fuels Association are among the groups that testified at the U.S. EPA’s public hearing for the reconsideration of the Final Determination of the Mid-Term Evaluation of Greenhouse Gas Emission Standards for Model Year 2022-2025 Light-Duty Vehicles.

A part of a 2012 rulemaking, the EPA established MY 2017-2025 light-duty vehicle GHG standards and made a regulatory commitment to conduct a midterm evaluation (MTE) of the standards for 2022—2025. That review was originally completed last year. On Nov. 30, 2016, former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy proposed to determine that the MY 2022-2025 standards remain as first established, and that rulemaking to change them is not warranted. The public comment period on that proposal was open through Dec. 30, 2016. On Jan. 12, McCarthy signed her determination to maintain the current GHG emissions standards for MY 2022-2025 light-duty vehicles. In March, current EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced the EPA will reconsider the mid-term evaluations and McCarthy’s determination.

On Aug. 21, the EPA opened a comment period on the reconsideration. The comment period is open through Oct. 5. The agency also held a public hearing on Sept. 6 in Washington, D.C.

Chris Bliley, vice president of regulatory affairs at Growth Energy, was among those to offer testimony at the hearing.

“Vehicles and fuels operate as a system, so it only makes sense to look at the benefits of higher octane fuels. We appreciate Administrator Pruitt and EPA’s specific willingness to do so,” Bliley said.

"Any review clearly demonstrates ethanol is a proven high-octane fuel that significantly reduces emissions and, when used in a midlevel blend in conjunction with modern engines, will help automakers achieve future fuel economy standards,” he continued.

Brian Jennings, executive vice president of ACE, also testified at the event.  “Unfortunately, the January determination issued by former Administrator McCarthy missed the opportunity to provide high-octane blends a role in improving fuel economy and reducing CO2 emissions,” Jennings said. “EPA instructed automakers to do a job but wouldn’t give them access to one of the most useful tools in the toolbox.”

“…We are encouraged by EPA’s reconsideration of the final determination and applaud the Agency for inviting comment on the ‘impact of the standards on advanced fuels technology, including…the potential for high-octane blends,’” Jennings continued.

In his testimony, Jennings said the EPA should establish a minimum octane for fuel and encourage the continued production of flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) as a bridge to emerging engine technologies which will be optimized to take advantage of the high-octane benefits of blends such as E25 and 30. ACE believes continued production of FFVs is especially important given 10 percent of vehicles on the road can use flex fuels, and the record growth and investment in retail infrastructure over the past two years.

Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the RFA, also testified at the hearing. “It is broadly understood that internal combustion engines will continue to serve as the predominant propulsion technology for light duty vehicles through 2025 and beyond,” Dinneen said. “But that’s where the importance of fuel properties comes into play. Most new and emerging internal combustion engine technologies are enabled by a high-octane, low-carbon fuel blend. For example, high-compression ratio technology (which EPA estimates will comprise 44 percent of the market by 2025) demands higher octane fuels to limit premature fuel ignition in the cylinder,” he said. Dinneen pointed out that ethanol’s unique properties—high octane rating, low lifecycle carbon emissions, high octane sensitivity, and high heat of vaporization—make it a key component for the high octane fuels that will enable more efficient internal combustion engines. “These attributes make ethanol a highly attractive component for the high-octane fuel blends of the future,” he said.

“Further, research shows that using a high-octane low carbon, mid-level ethanol blend in optimized engines would be the lowest cost means of achieving compliance with CAFE and GHG standards for MY2022-2025 and beyond,” Dinneen told EPA officials at the hearing. “Indeed, there is a growing chorus of voices calling for a transition to higher-octane fuels to enable low-cost engine technologies that will meaningfully increase fuel economy and reduce emissions in the mid-term. We urge EPA to heed this call as the agency revisits its Final Determination,” he noted.

“A high-octane fuel (98-100 RON) could be produced today simply by blending 25-30 percent ethanol with existing gasoline blendstocks. However, due to the inertia of fuel and vehicle markets, this transition will not occur on its own. Action by the EPA is necessary to catalyze the development and introduction of high-octane, low carbon fuels into the consumer market, just as EPA action was required to eliminate lead, limit benzene, and reduce the sulfur content of our gasoline and diesel fuel,” Dinneen said.