Four US House members—Bill Flores (R-Tex.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), and Jim Costa (D-Calif.)—introduced legislation that would limit ethanol blended into motor fuels at 9.7% of projected gasoline demand as determined by the US Energy Information Administration.
HR 5180 also would require the US Environmental Protection Agency to meet its statutory deadlines under the federal Renewable Fuel Standard in setting annual renewable fuel quotas. Previous blend volumes would apply if the federal regulator failed to meet a deadline.
“Market conditions have dramatically changed since 2005 and 2007, when Congress created and subsequently expanded the RFS. Since that time, gasoline demand has fallen and is well below the volumes implied by the ethanol mandates in the 2007 statute,” said Flores, the bill’s primary sponsor, following its introduction on May 10.
The legacy RFS formula has caused a situation where the ethanol mandate exceeds the maximum amount that can be efficiently blended into gasoline under real-world market conditions, and forces refiners to increase ethanol volumes above 10% of total gasoline production as a result, Flores said.
“Higher ethanol blends of this nature are harmful for small engines, engines for recreational vehicles, and older vehicles’ engines,” Flores said. “Furthermore, the current RFS mandates are causing higher emissions as well as higher fuel and food costs for consumers.”
Officials from the American Petroleum Institute and the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers separately applauded the bill’s introduction.
“The nation’s ever-increasing ethanol mandate is a crisis in waiting, and API has joined a chorus of concerned groups in calling on congress to repeal it,” API Senior Director of Federal Relations Khary Cauthen said.
US refiners are nearing the ethanol blend wall, above which the amount required to be blended would be unsafe for most vehicles on the road today, Cauthen warned.
“Ethanol and other renewable fuels have an important role to play in our transportation fuel mix and will continue to be used after Congress repeals the mandate,” Cauthen said. “But we cannot allow a mandate for ethanol that exceeds what is safe for vehicles and our economy and that could put upward pressure on fuel prices.”
AFPM Pres. Chet Thompson welcomed the bill’s intent that would make it no longer necessary for EPA to set ethanol blending quotas at levels safe for vehicles or retailing infrastructure.
“While we believe that full repeal is warranted, this legislation is a step in the right direction and would provide needed protection to consumers from the harmful effects of exceeding the blend wall,” he said.
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