EPA’s final SAFE Vehicles Rule under OMB review

By Erin Voegele | August 05, 2019

The U.S. EPA submitted its final Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Years 2021-2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks to the White House Office of Management and Budget on Aug. 2. OMB review marks a final stage before the public release of the final rule.

The EPA and U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration first released its SAFE Vehicles Rule in August 2018. The rulemaking aims to replace CAFE/GHG standards put in place by the Obama Administration. The proposed rule was initially subject to a 60-day public comment period. The comment period was later extended through Oct. 26, 2018. 

Upon its release, members of the ethanol industry applauded the proposed rule for addressing the potential of high-octane fuels.

Regarding high-octane fuels, the proposed rulemaking stated that stakeholders have suggested that mid-level high octane ethanol blends should be considered and that EPA should consider requiring mid-level blends to be made available at service stations. “Higher octane gasoline could provide manufacturers with more flexibility to meet more stringent standards by enabling opportunities to use lower CO2 emitting technologies (e.g., higher compression ratio engines, improved turbocharging, optimized engine combustion,” said the EPA in the rulemaking. The agency requested comment on if and how it could support the production and use of higher octane gasoline consistent with Title II of the Clean Air Act.

The proposed rule also referenced previous recommendations made by the High Octane Low Carbon Alliance and the Fuel Freedom Foundation. “In meetings with HOLC and FFA, the groups advocated for the potential benefits high octane fuels could provide via the blending of non-petroleum feedstocks to increase octane levels available at the pump,” the EPA wrote in the rulemaking. “The groups’ positions on benefits took both a technical approach by suggesting an octane level of 100 is desired for the marketplace, as well as, the benefits from potential increased national energy security by reduced dependencies on foreign petroleum.”

The EPA solicited comments “on the potential benefits, or dis-benefits, of considering the impacts of increased fuel octane levels available to consumers for the purposes of the model. More specifically, please comment on how increasing fuel octane levels would play a role in product offerings and engine technologies.”

Representatives of the Renewable Fuels Association, Growth Energy and The American Coalition for ethanol were among those who testified at a Sept. 25, 2018 hearing on the proposed rule. Testimony offered by the three trade groups primarily focused on the potential of high-octane, low-carbon fuels.