Posted July 21, 2015
With another congressional hearing on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) scheduled this week, a couple of glimpses behind the curtain at EPA help explain why the RFS is dysfunctional and needs to be repealed or dramatically overhauled.
Glimpse No. 1 comes from a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing last month, chaired by Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma. The witness was EPA’s Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for the office of air and radiation. Tune in at about the 1-hour, 24-minute mark of the archived video to see Lankford’s discussion with McCabe about how EPA sets annual ethanol use requirements under the RFS.
The overriding issue is the ethanol “blend wall” – the point where the RFS requires blending more ethanol into the national fuel supply than can be used in E10 gasoline. At that point some think that higher ethanol-blend fuels like E15 and E85 will help meet RFS ethanol mandates. But E15 can cause damage to engines and fuel systems in vehicles that weren’t designed to use it – as well as outdoor power equipment, boats and motorcycles. And E85 is less energy-dense than standard gasoline – getting fewer miles to the gallon. It represents a tiny fraction of overall gasoline demand, a strong signal from consumers.
Posted July 17, 2015
Lots of people are concerned that increasing the presence of E15 in the nation’s fuel supply could have adverse impacts on devices powered by gasoline.
Studies show E15 can damage engines and fuel systems in cars and trucks that weren’t designed to use it. (Click here for a matrix that shows most vehicles on the road today aren’t recommended for operating on E15 by manufacturers.) Motorcycles and outdoor power equipment could be negatively affected by using E15, too.
That’s a concern of marine engine manufacturers and boating enthusiasts as well.
Posted July 16, 2015
Motorcycles aren’t designed to use higher ethanol-blend fuels like E15, and the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) warns that using E15 in a motorcycle can void its warranty. There’s serious concern about inadvertent misfueling, as well as the possibility that the push for more E15 in the fuel supply could out E0 (gasoline containing zero ethanol).
Posted July 15, 2015
While the potential negative impacts of E15 fuel on machines that weren’t designed to use it – from vehicles to outboard marine engines and weed-eaters – isn’t funny, some humor can help illustrate important points in that key public policy debate.
API has three new cartoons that take a light-hearted look at the potential harm from using E15 – containing up to 50 percent more ethanol than E10 gasoline that’s standard across the country – in outdoor equipment, boat motors and motorcycles. Today, outdoor power equipment.
Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), has warned against using E15 in lawnmowers and other outdoor gear because they can cause permanent damage.
Posted June 17, 2015
Quick rewind to 2007, when Congress enacted the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): The U.S. faced energy challenges – declining domestic production leading to greater dependence on imports and ever-increasing consumer costs. The RFS was conceived as a way to spur production of advanced biofuels that would help on imports and costs.
Today the energy landscape has completely changed. Thanks to surging domestic production from shale and other tight-rock formations with advanced hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, the United States is No. 1 in the world in the production of petroleum and natural gas hydrocarbons. Our imports are falling, and consumers have enjoyed lower prices at the pump.
Yet, the RFS remains – with its mandates for increasing use of ethanol in the fuel supply, seemingly impervious to the changed energy landscape, even as increased domestic oil production has checked off RFS objectives one by one. Even EPA’s latest proposal for ethanol use, while acknowledging that the RFS has serious flaws, continues to try to manage the behavior of markets and consumers, ironically leaving both on the sidelines.
That was the message in a telephone briefing with reporters hosted by API President and CEO Jack Gerard. Joining the call were Wayne Allard of the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), Heather White of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Rob Green of the National Council of Chain Restaurants (NCCR).
Posted June 9, 2015
BP Magazine – Why is natural gas the fuel of the future? Despite pressures on the industry today – with gas prices down and capital investment under pressure – longer term trends still point to the increasing significance of natural gas in the energy mix. BP Magazine looks at some of the numbers behind the story of the world’s strongest-growing and cleanest fossil fuel.
Over the next 20 years, natural gas is expected to catch up with oil and coal and emerge as the main hydrocarbon component of a more sustainable energy mix. The fastest-growing fossil fuel – which is primarily methane – is mainly used for power generation, as well as in homes, offices, shops and other commercial locations for heating and cooling. It’s also a raw material in the production of fertilizer and other chemicals – and it is sometimes used as a fuel for transport as well.
Posted May 29, 2015
With EPA already embarrassingly late in setting requirements for ethanol in the fuel supply for 2014 (due 18 months ago) and 2015 (due six months ago), the agency finally has proposals for those years and 2016 that would continue to drive ethanol use – though not at levels dictated by the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
Top EPA official Janet McCabe called the proposals “ambitious, but responsible.” We’ll agree on the ambitious part – in that it takes a whole lot of something to thread the needle between marketplace realities and the flawed RFS – difficult for the nimblest of bureaucracies, much less a regulatory colossus like EPA.
Unfortunately, EPA comes up short, particularly for 2016. An RFS program that long ago went awry remains lost in the tall weeds of process over substance.
Posted April 28, 2015
EIA: In its recently released Annual Energy Outlook 2015 (AEO2015), EIA expects the United States to be a net natural gas exporter by 2017. After 2017, natural gas trade is driven largely by the availability of natural gas resources and by world energy prices. Increased availability of domestic gas or higher world energy prices each increase the gap between the cost of U.S. natural gas and world prices that encourages exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG), and, to a lesser extent, greater exports by pipeline to Mexico.
The AEO2015 examines alternate cases with higher and lower world oil price assumptions, which serve as a proxy for broader world energy prices given oil-indexed contracts, as well as with higher assumed U.S. oil and natural gas resources. These assumptions significantly affect projected growth in annual net LNG exports after 2017. Net LNG exports make up most of the natural gas exports in most cases. By 2040, LNG exports range from 0.2 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) in the Low Oil Price case to 10.3 Tcf in the High Oil and Gas Resource case. For comparison, 2040 natural gas net exports by pipeline range from 1.1 Tcf in the High Oil Price case to 2.9 Tcf in the High Oil and Gas Resource case.
Posted March 4, 2015
Let’s update an informative chart that’s critical in the continuing discussion of E15 fuel and the ethanol mandates of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
It lists, by vehicle manufacturers and model years, whether a specific manufacturer recommends operation of its vehicles on E15, which contains 50 percent more ethanol than the E10 fuel that’s prevalent across the country. We’ve posted the manufacturers/model years grid a number of times (including here and here), but this chart s updated to include the 2015 model year.
Posted February 25, 2015
The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and its mandates for increasing use of ethanol continue to be debated publicly – in Congress, where lawmakers could vote to repeal the dysfunctional program and in places like Chicago, where service stations could be forced to carry higher-ethanol blend E15 fuel.
The Fill Up On Facts website is a great resource on the RFS, ethanol mandates and related issues. Information is available on the RFS itself, as well as problems that have made the program and its ethanol mandates untenable – like the refining “blend wall,” potential risks to vehicle and equipment engines and impacts on food prices.