WASHINGTON, September 13, 2017 - A high-octane, low-carbon ethanol blend in optimized engines would be the lowest cost means of achieving compliance with fuel economy and greenhouse gas (GHG) standards for model year (MY) 2022-2025 and beyond, Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Bob Dinneen recently told the Environmental Protection Agency.

Dinneen was testifying at an EPA public hearing in Washington, D.C., on the agency’s Midterm Evaluation (MTE) of light-duty vehicle greenhouse gas standards.

In March, EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) jointly announced they were inviting stakeholders to comment on their reconsideration of the standards previously established for MY 2022-2025 light-duty vehicles. For the first time in the MTE process, EPA explicitly invited comment on the important role that fuel properties, especially octane rating, can play in facilitating compliance with the long-term fuel economy and GHG emissions standards.

“It is broadly understood that internal combustion engines will continue to serve as the predominant propulsion technology for light duty vehicles through 2025 and beyond,” Dinneen testified. “But that’s where the importance of fuel properties comes into play. Most new and emerging internal combustion engine technologies are enabled by a high-octane, low-carbon fuel blend. For example, high-compression ratio technology (which EPA estimates will comprise 44 percent of the market by 2025) demands higher octane fuels to limit premature fuel ignition in the cylinder.”

Dinneen said that ethanol’s unique properties – high octane rating, low lifecycle carbon emissions, high octane sensitivity, and high heat of vaporization – make it a key component for the high-octane fuels that will enable more efficient internal combustion engines.

“Further, research shows that using a high-octane, low-carbon, mid-level ethanol blend in optimized engines would be the lowest cost means of achieving compliance with (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) and (Greenhouse Gas) standards for MY 2022-2025 and beyond,” Dinneen told EPA officials at the hearing. “Indeed, there is a growing chorus of voices calling for a transition to higher-octane fuels to enable low-cost engine technologies that will meaningfully increase fuel economy and reduce emissions in the mid-term. We urge EPA to heed this call as the agency revisits its Final Determination.”

In his testimony, Dinneen urged EPA to ensure its revised Final Determination treats future engines and fuels as integrated systems and fully accounts for the findings of DOE’s “Co-optima” research initiative. He also called for a robust cost-benefit analysis of various CAFE/GHG compliance pathways and a regulatory roadmap to broad commercial introduction of high-octane, low-carbon fuels in advanced internal combustion engines.

“If properly designed and implemented, we believe future (CAFE) and GHG standards can work in tandem with programs like the Renewable Fuel Standard to advance the important policy objectives of reducing fossil fuel consumption and decreasing transportation-related emissions,” Dinneen added.

Additionally, RFA recently filed comments with NHTSA on its environmental impact statement of the MTE, and included a literature review of ethanol use for high octane fuels by global automotive engineering firm Ricardo Inc.

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