Posted August 7, 2015
NASCAR racing team owner Richard Childress has an op-ed in the Charlotte Observer this week in which he renders a full-throttle endorsement of E15 gasoline and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the federal program that requires more and more ethanol be blended into the nation’s fuel supply.
Childress focuses on the specially formulated E15 (98 octane rating, compared to 90 octane in retail E15) that NASCAR uses in its customized, high-performance engines (725 horsepower, compared to 120 horsepower in a typical car engine, up to 200 horsepower in a large SUV).
Certainly, NASCAR racecars and the NASCAR-blend E15 are well-suited for each other. Less clear is why Childress is so enthusiastic about putting commercial-grade E15 in a car or truck, especially those built between 2001 and 2013 – something most car manufacturers don’t recommend.
Posted July 27, 2015
More tools in the debate over the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Fill Up On Facts.com has posted four short videos highlighting some of the disconnects between the original reasoning behind the RFS and the world we live in today – which is why the program should be fundamentally revamped, if not repealed.
Video No. 1 discusses the potential risks to vehicles from using E15 fuel – seen by some as a way to absorb all of the ethanol mandated by the RFS above what can safely be blended as standard E10 gasoline – the ethanol “blend wall.”
Other videos show that the founding assumptions behind the RFS are disconnected from today’s reality.
Posted July 24, 2015
Some thoughts on EPA’s proposed program to encourage voluntary methane emissions reductions from existing sources. The Methane Challenge Program would expand on the Natural Gas STAR program by recognizing companies that make specific emissions reduction commitments and agree to submit annual data on the progress they’re making.
First, industry supports voluntary. The program could be supportive of what industry already is doing to reduce methane emissions – an effort that is working. EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report issued this spring showed methane emissions from hydraulically fractured natural gas wells are down 79 percent since 2005 – a period in which natural gas production has soared.
Posted July 22, 2015
An informative event this week hosted by the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, highlighting some potential real-world impacts of EPA’s proposal to tighten national ozone standards. Underscore “real-world impacts,” because the discussion centered on the potential havoc EPA’s proposal could unleash on transportation projects all over the country. “There’s going to be real people who’re going to be really upset,” said Karen A. Harbert, Institute president and CEO.
It’s important to see EPA’s ozone proposal in that light. The possible macro-economic harm that stricter ozone standards could bring – GDP reduction of $270 billion per year and $3.4 trillion from 2017 to 2040, according to one study – have been discussed here and elsewhere. But individual Americans may or may not relate to them, they’re so large.
The institute discussion and its new report, “Grinding To a Halt – Examining the Impacts of New Ozone Regulations on Key Transportation Projects” – help bring potential problems with stricter ozone standards to Americans’ doorsteps. Or, more specifically, to their daily commutes – which could get tougher if all kinds of transportation projects are terminated or delayed because they’re proposed in areas that would be in nonattainment with the new ozone standards.
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 13, 2015
Another data point in the continuing public discussion of EPA’s plan to make the nation’s standards for ozone more restrictive, even as the existing standards have ozone levels falling 18 percent from 2000 to 2013 – and giving every indication levels will continue to fall. A new study by the Center for Regulatory Solutions (CRS) details how more restrictive ozone standards would impact where a lot of people live: Chicago and the state of Illinois.
According to the study, 21 counties in Illinois would be out of compliance or in “non-attainment” if EPA tightens ground-level standards from the existing 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 65 ppb, as it may do. (The fact is EPA is considering a national level as low as 60 ppb.)
Those 21 counties represent nearly 80 percent of Illinois’ gross domestic product, or $613.4 billion. The CRS study says Cook County and five other counties that surround Chicago would be “ground zero” for the most dramatic ozone reductions, potentially affecting 65 percent of the state’s population, nearly 70 percent of its employment and 73 percent of its GDP.
Posted July 8, 2015
Before getting into the latest in a series of research studies on energy-related methane emissions, it’s important to stay focused on the big picture.
Data from EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report published this spring shows that net methane emissions from natural gas production fell 38 percent from 2005 to 2013 – even as natural gas production rose dramatically. Also: Methane emissions from hydraulically fractured natural gas wells declined 79 percent from 2005 to 2013, EPA found.
That’s the appropriate context for 11 new studies just published in the scientific journal Environmental Science & Technology, reporting research in the Barnett Shale play in North Texas. The studies follow others coordinated by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). One released in 2013 found that methane emissions from natural gas drilling were a fraction of previous estimates. Another released earlier this year found that that vast majority of natural gas facilities – from the production phase to distribution via inter- and intra-state pipeline networks – recorded methane loss rates of below 1 percent.
Posted July 6, 2015
USA Today (editorial) – Fracking — the practice of cracking open underground oil and gas formations with water, sand and chemicals — has rescued U.S. energy production from a dangerous decline. Any debate about banning it should take a hard look at what that would cost the nation and at facts that aren't always part of the discussion.
Those facts are spelled out in a recent report from the Environmental Protection Agency on fracking and groundwater. One of the harshest charges against fracking, often leveled with apocalyptic intensity by its foes, is that it indiscriminately contaminates vital drinking water supplies.
The EPA's timely report essentially said that's overblown.
Posted June 26, 2015
API Downstream Group Director Bob Greco traveled this week to EPA’s field hearing on the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in Kansas City, to detail concerns over the flawed program, with its market-distorting mandates for ever-increasing use of ethanol in the national fuel supply. His remarks, as prepared for delivery:
The Ethanol Blend Wall
Our members’ primary RFS concern is the ethanol blend wall. Serious vehicle and retail infrastructure compatibility issues exist with gasoline containing more than 10 percent ethanol. We are encouraged that EPA has proposed to address this reality.
Gasoline demand increases projected in 2007 did not materialize, and Congress granted EPA the authority to balance its aspirational goals with reality. API supports EPA’s use of its explicit RFS waiver authorities in 2014, ‘15, ‘16, and beyond to avoid negative impacts on America’s fuel supply and to prevent harm to American consumers.