By Bill Holmberg 9/26/13
America’s dependence on oil as a main source of transportation fuel is a problem. When people are compelled to use oil for almost all of their transportation needs, the situation leaves them unable to freely choose more economically rewarding and environmentally better fuel selections at the pump. Oil’s grip on the market hampers competition and fuel diversity. This hold on consumers often seems unbreakable. However, there are options available to break oil’s monopoly in the fuel market and now is the time to pursue those options.
The United States leads the world in powering passenger vehicles and light duty trucks with renewable fuels including ethanol. Due to “smart” policies such as the Renewable Fuel Standard, today, the marketplace supports over 15 billion gallons of ethanol. This accounts for 10% of America’s transportation fuel and lower consumer cost of gasoline to the tune of $.50 to a $1.00 per gallon. However, the United States lags behind countries such as Brazil in the number of flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) on the road; the use of higher blend levels of ethanol; as well as the national distribution and deployment of ethanol blends beyond E-10. More importantly, the United States has ceded its edge in developing fuel sources including methanol to China and Israel. This is no technology or market demand gap; it is a policy gap hampering the marketplace. Lacking a solution to our U.S. shortfalls, the noteworthy progress renewable fuels has achieved here at home will stall and likely recede.
Employing the Renewable Fuel Standard and other “smart” policies, the EPA plays a pivotal role in diversifying our nation’s fuel supply. Good, so far, but to ensure the marketplace for ethanol, methanol, and other renewable fuels expands, the EPA must take three immediate steps. I suggest these three steps are all with-in the EPA’s purview and congressionally-approved authority.
1. Restore incentives for the production of FFVs before finalization of the Tier 3 Regulations.
2. Implement the law calling for the reduction of aromatics in gasoline in order to stem public health costs caused by oil and oil’s derivatives. These are increasingly clear problems and are fully verified by research-based and peer-reviewed that are increasingly obvious and now verified by scientific studies.
3. Cooperate with the U.S. Departments of Transportation, Energy, and Agriculture to incentivize the nation-wide installation of blender pumps and holding tanks at fueling stations.
Such strategic actions open up our American fuel supply for advanced technologies and fuels like ethanol and methanol, enabling our transportation system to be more diverse and less expensive via healthy, traditional American competition. The result? What the American Council On Renewable Energy—(ACORE) calls the triple bottom-line value proposition; enhanced energy security, improved economic vitality and economic security and environmental security.
Opening the transportation fuel market to innovative, renewable fuel sources is not an easy task and is full of challenges and potential detours, but nothing that cannot be overcome. Expect opponents to continue claiming that ethanol drives up food prices, even as thoughtful research has proven such assertions are false; in fact, higher oil prices mean higher food prices. Detractors will also claim that alternative fuels like ethanol hurt engines and perform poorly, but once again, extensive testing and NASCAR’s commitment to ethanol proves these charges are simply “bunk” – American technologies and efficiencies are only getting better.
America must have a diverse fuel supply that opens up competition, boosts our economy, and strengthens our environment. Expanding market opportunities in order to diversify our fuel supply benefits all Americans. Our country is home to the pioneering scientists, innovators, and business people leading this move for more consumer choice, a cleaner environment, and fuel supply diversity. Now is the time for the country to move forward, not backwards.
By ACORE's Bill Holmberg