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Trump Administration to Revise EPA CAFE Standards

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The Trump administration Monday announced it will revise fuel-efficiency and emissions regulations for cars and light trucks. Bloomberg News was the first to report the revision effort that the administration says is needed because the current regulations are too aggressive. The Environmental Protection Agency is also considering revoking a waiver for California to allow the state to set its own standard that exceed federal regulations. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt says the agency would begin drafting new standards for 2022-2025.

The Obama era regulations aimed to slash carbon emissions by boosting average fuel economy to more than 50 miles-per-gallon by 2025. Ethanol groups have supported the standards, known as CAFE standards, saying ethanol can help meet emissions targets. Growth Energy Monday responded saying high-octane fuels, such as ethanol blends like E25-E30, should be part of this discussion moving forward.

“For several years, Growth Energy has strongly emphasized the fact that fuels and engines are a system and that high-octane fuels – such as ethanol blends like E25-E30 – should be part of this discussion,” Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor said.

“We have provided a wealth of data to show that midlevel ethanol blends can be used by automakers to produce smaller, more efficient engines that will help meet future vehicle standards. We will continue to remain engaged with automakers and government stakeholders to ensure that biofuels are part of any long-term plan for engine efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction.”

In October 2017, Growth Energy submitted comments to the EPA in support of the use of higher biofuel blends in the Final Determination of the Mid-Term Evaluation of Greenhouse Gas Emission Standard for Model Years 2022-2025 Light-Duty Vehicles. Growth Energy also filed comments in August 2017 with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to inform its preparation of an environmental impact statement to analyze the potential environmental impacts of new CAFE standards for model year 2022-2025 light-duty vehicles.

American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) CEO Brian Jennings called the decision an opportunity for high-octane fuel to play a role in helping automakers reduce GHG emissions from automobiles with the following statement:

“The previous administration refused to acknowledge the inescapable link between tailpipe emissions and fuel, overlooking the role fuels with a higher octane rating than today’s gasoline could play in reducing GHG emissions and improving fuel economy. ACE members are encouraged EPA Administrator Pruitt has changed course and sought information on the potential for high-octane blends, and likewise, we appreciated when Bill Wehrum of EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation brought up ethanol’s octane benefits in his meeting with us during our recent Washington, D.C. fly-in.

“Some might argue today’s decision means EPA will eventually relax GHG standards allowing more gasoline use and tailpipe pollution, but not if the new standards pave the way for E25-30 high-octane fuel in future engines. Ethanol-enriched, high-octane fuel enables automakers to simultaneously reduce GHG emissions and improve fuel economy. We are confident E25-30 blends will be the most affordable way to thread that needle.”

Below are steps ACE encourages EPA to take during its next rulemaking process to enable high-octane fuel to play a role in helping automakers meet future GHG standards, including:

1. Approve an alternative certification fuel with 25-30 percent ethanol and a minimum octane of 98-100 Research Octane Number (RON) so automakers can begin testing future engines on a high-octane blend.
2. Establish a minimum octane performance standard for fuel in the range of 98-100 RON.
3. Restore credits to automakers for the manufacture of flexible fuel vehicles and consider a new incentive for future engines designed to achieve optimal efficiency on high-octane fuels.

Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen offered the following statement: “For too long, our light-duty vehicle fuel economy and GHG emission regulations have focused exclusively on the vehicle. We have repeatedly encouraged EPA, NHTSA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to also consider the important impact of fuels on fuel economy and emissions. Fuels and engines work as integrated systems, and we have provided mounds of evidence that high-octane, low-carbon ethanol blends in optimized engines would be the lowest-cost means of achieving compliance with future fuel economy standards. We are glad to see EPA took notice of that information, and we again urge EPA and NHTSA to use the upcoming rulemaking to establish the roadmap to broad commercialization of high-octane fuels in optimized internal combustion engines. As we pointed out in previous submissions to the agencies, higher octane fuel would unleash and enable a wide pallet of low-cost engine technologies that offer proven fuel efficiency and GHG emission improvements at a low cost for consumers.”