Proposed 2016 quotas under the Renewable Fuel Standard potentially could breach the ethanol blend wall and cause trouble for consumers, Rep. Bill Flores (R-Tex.) and 183 other US House members warned.
“Increased fuel efficiency has led to shrinking gasoline demand,” they said in a Nov. 5 letter to US Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy.
“This current reality, coupled with an increasing biofuel blending requirement, has exacerbated the onset of the E10 blend wall—the point at which the gasoline supply is saturated with the maximum amount of ethanol that the current vehicle fleet, marine, and other small engines, and refueling infrastructure can safely accommodate,” the 16 Democrats and 168 Republicans explained.
They said despite EPA’s acknowledging that the blend wall exists, “the 2016 proposal acknowledges that it will be breached nevertheless. Specifically, EPA states that the 2016 [Renewable Volume Obligations] ‘include volumes of renewable fuel that will require either ethanol use at levels significantly beyond the E10 blend wall, or significantly greater use of non-ethanol fuels than has occurred to date.’”
EPA also acknowledges that the proposed 2016 quotas would require significantly more use of E15 and E86 to meet the proposed 2016 mandate, the letter said. “Therefore, this proposal is problematic not only in principle, but it is also impractical since it would decades, not months, to build out the compatible vehicle fleet and install the necessary retail infrastructure to accommodate the higher blends of ethanol,” it said.
Consider issuing waivers
Congress will continue to work toward a bipartisan solution to problems with the RFS, the federal lawmakers said. “As this work continues, it is critical that EPA use its statutory authority to waive [the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act’s] conventional biofuel volume to keep the blending requirements below the E10 blend wall, and to help limit the economic and consumer harm this program has already caused,” they said.
Their letter came 2 days after several witnesses outlined recommendations, in a Nov. 3 joint hearing of two US House Science, Space, and Technology subcommittees, which ranged from reforms to repeal of the RFS to address its problems (OGJ Online, Nov. 4, 2015).
An American Petroleum Institute official said the House members’ letter shows growing, bipartisan congressional recognition that higher ethanol mandates could have negative consequences for consumers, including unexpected auto repair bills and negative consequences to the general economy.
“The administration seems poised to pursue a careless rush to raise ethanol volumes regardless of costs to consumers and our economy,” said Bob Greco, API downstream group director. “EPA appears to be putting politics ahead of sound policy.”
Greco said API urges EPA to reduce the total ethanol renewable fuels volume requirements for 2016 to below 9.7% of gasoline demand to protect consumers and the national economy. “This will keep us below the 10% ethanol blend wall while allowing consumers the option of buying non-ethanol gasoline if they want it,” he said.
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