Jul 31, 2023
Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Pete Ricketts, R-Neb., on July 27 introduced the Flex Fuel Fairness Act, a bill that aims to provide meaningful incentives for automakers to manufacture flex fuel vehicles (FFVs) in addition to battery electric vehicles.
“The Biden EPA has made a mistake and ignored the proven benefits of flex fuel vehicles that can run higher ethanol blends,” Ricketts said. “Our bill levels the playing field for a proven Nebraska alternative to expensive and burdensome electric vehicles. Nebraskans know biofuels like ethanol are a proven solution that lowers prices for consumers at the pump, is great for our farmers and ranchers, and reduces our dependence on foreign oil.”
The U.S. EPA recently released proposed tailpipe greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards for model year (MY) 2027-2032 light-duty vehicles. Once finalized, the proposed standards will require automakers to meet certain tailpipe carbon dioxide emission values, on average, across their fleet of new vehicles. According to information released by Ricketts office, the EPA’s proposed approach for electric vehicles (EVs) assumes that EVs produced by automakers will use only zero-carbon renewable electricity. That approach has been criticized for ignoring the significant GHG emissions associated with critical mineral extraction, EV battery production, and the production and transmission of electricity used to recharge EV batteries. Some estimates indicate the EPA’s proposed standards would require EVs to account for two-thirds of light-duty vehicles within eight years.
The proposed tailpipe emissions rule does not recognize or account for meaningful GHG emissions savings that can be achieved through expanding biofuels use in vehicles designed to accommodate higher blends, including FFVs. According to Ricketts office, for the purpose of determining GHG tailpipe emissions compliance performance values, FFVs capable of operating on E85 should be assumed to operate on E85 all of the time, in line with how EVs are assumed to operate on zero-carbon electricity all of the time. The Flex Fuel Fairness Act aims to ensure that automakers that manufacture FFVs should be allowed to use a compliance tailpipe carbon dioxide emissions value that reflects the lifecycle GHG savings from using E85. For purposes of determining fleet average carbon dioxide standards, the bill would ensure that manufacturers may use a gram-per-mile carbon dioxide value for FFVs that is 31 percent lower than the gram per mile carbon dioxide value for the same vehicle model that is not an FFV.
The Renewable Fuels Association is applauding the bill, stressing it would help level the playing field for FFVs by properly recognizing the emissions benefits associated with the use of E85 flex fuels.
“We thank Senators Klobuchar and Ricketts for introducing the Flex Fuel Fairness Act, which appropriately acknowledges the emissions benefits of FFVs and flex fuels and rewards automakers who continue producing these popular vehicles,” said Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the RFA. “This legislation helps unlock the potential of renewable fuels and puts more tools in the toolbox for automakers who must comply with increasingly stringent vehicle emissions standards. By leveling the playing field for the production of all clean vehicle technologies, this bill allows low-carbon liquid fuels like ethanol to work alongside clean electricity, electric vehicles, and other technologies to reduce emissions from transportation.”
“If EPA regulations are going to credit EVs for their maximum theoretical carbon emissions benefit, then it stands to reason that the agency should also credit FFVs for their maximum possible carbon emissions benefit,” Cooper added. “This bill would ensure that EPA is being fair and equitable in the way it uses emissions values as policy incentives to stimulate the production of lower-carbon vehicles.”
Growth Energy has also spoken out to welcome the bill, noting it would maximize the benefits of low-carbon biofuels under federal tailpipe standards. “U.S. automakers need flexibility to pursue innovative strategies for decarbonizing light-duty vehicles,” said Emily Skor, CEO of Growth Energy. “This bill would level the playing field, so both electricity and low-carbon biofuels can drive progress toward a net-zero future. We applaud Senators Klobuchar and Ricketts for working to make sure that EPA regulations protect access to cleaner, more affordable transportation options.”
“Higher blends of biofuels offer immediate climate benefits while also reducing emissions of particulate matter, carbon monoxide, and other smog-forming pollutants linked to cancer and other negative health outcomes,” added Skor. “This legislation would put more FFVs on the road and position them to play an even greater role in decarbonizing transportation for decades to come.”
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