Posted March 7, 2015
The politics of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and its mandates for ever-increasing ethanol use are on display this weekend in Iowa, a key presidential primary state. Nothing against Iowa – or ethanol, for that matter – but the RFS illustrates that when you mix energy policy and politics bad public policy can result.
Certainly, the RFS shows the difficulty of trying to apply central planning to the marketplace, of trying to mandate consumer behavior. The RFS is a relic of the era of energy scarcity in the U.S. whose best intentions have been superseded by surging domestic oil and natural gas production.
Still, the RFS remains and along with it potential risks to the economy, vehicle engines and more. It also risks unintended consequences, including a moral/ethical dilemma over whether food should be turned into fuels, as well as concern for the environmental impact of corn ethanol production.
Posted March 6, 2015
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.
Posted February 5, 2015
Posted February 3, 2015
Posted December 22, 2014
A new peer-reviewed study of transportation fueling options generated a pretty good buzz last week, basically for the finding that electric vehicles might not be as good for the environment as previously thought. Another of the study’s conclusions also is worth underscoring: the negative environmental impacts of corn ethanol in fuels.
A team of University of Minnesota researchers assessed life-cycle air quality impacts of 10 alternatives to conventional gasoline vehicles. On corn ethanol:
We find that powering vehicles with corn ethanol or with coal-based or “grid average” electricity increases monetized environmental health impacts by 80% or more relative to using conventional gasoline.
Posted December 16, 2014
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his allies on the city council deserve credit for putting a stop – for now at least – to an ill-conceived proposal that would mandate the sale of higher ethanol blend E15 fuel at city service stations.
We say ill-conceived because, as argued here and here earlier this year, the E15 requirement could be full of risk for consumers and small business owners – while mainly benefiting ethanol producers. Recently, AAA urged Chicago lawmakers to vote against the ordinance.
Posted December 12, 2014
Posted November 24, 2014
For months we’ve been pointing out the brokenness of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the federal law requiring ever-increasing use of ethanol in the nation’s fuel supply.
We’ve written about the impending “blend wall,” the point where the RFS would require blending more ethanol into gasoline than could be safely used as E10, potentially putting motorists at risk for damage to vehicles while also potentially risking small-engine equipment and marine engines. We’ve written about RFS-mandated use of “phantom” liquid cellulosic biofuels – a fuel that hasn’t been commercially available despite the recent inclusion by EPA of landfill bio gas in that category (more about that in a future post). And we’ve written about how the 2014 requirements for ethanol use were months and months late from EPA, caught up in election-year politics.
The RFS is indeed broken. Late last week EPA basically agreed, announcing it’s waving the white flag on trying to issue ethanol-use requirements for 2014, which has just a little over one month to go. Instead, the agency said it will complete the 2014 targets in 2015 “prior to or in conjunction with action on the 2015 standards rule.”