A coalition of agricultural interest groups says proposed new corporate average fuel economy standards could cap and constrain U.S. biofuel production, posing a risk to the nation's rural and energy economy.
In comments filed today with the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the organizations say the proposed rule establishing greenhouse gas emissions and CAFE standards for 2017 and later model-year, light-duty vehicles "does not sufficiently incentivize the production of flex-fuel vehicles," and "does not adequately value the greenhouse gas reduction potential of biofuels."
The comments were submitted by the 25x'25 Alliance, American Council on Renewable Energy, American Seed Trade Association, Association of Equipment Manufacturers, American Farm Bureau Federation, Biotechnology Industry Organization, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Farmers Union and the National Sorghum Producers.
Seeking changes to the proposed rule, the groups argue that "together, these oversights place the rule in conflict with other established national priorities, policies, and legislation," including the federal Renewable Fuel Standard and the Energy Independence and Security Act, "while ignoring the economic, public health, and environmental benefits that can only be achieved through increased biofuel usage."
The groups make the case that "the continued production of flexible fuel vehicles and the advancement of a range of biofuels into the market are critical to expanding renewable fuel use, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing air quality."
There are currently 12 million FFVs operating on American roadways and the use of midlevel ethanol blends and E85 in FFVs is a cost-effective and efficient way to help meet the federal agencies' ambitious standards for improving tailpipe emissions through biofuels utilization, the organizations state.
"Ethanol and other advanced biofuels such as biobutanol facilitate CO2 emission reductions both within the vehicle, and, more importantly, throughout its production and combustion life cycle," the groups wrote.
"Higher ethanol blends reduce emissions of hazardous air pollutants such as particulate matter resulting from the burning of aromatic hydrocarbons like benzene, toluene, and xylene found in conventional fuels," they said.
The groups contend that despite the many benefits of biofuels, including the enhancement of U.S, national energy security, the proposed rule does not ensure they will be realized.
"The proposed rule effectively eliminates statutory incentives intended to promote their use," according to the comments. "Moreover, it appears to pick favorites by providing much more generous credits to other 'advanced vehicle technologies,' such as electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles."
The groups' rule changes include addressing the lack of parity for FFVs by providing a level playing field for each vehicle technology, and recognizing the "lifecycle" CO2 reductions provided by ethanol.
Representatives from the groups will soon meet with officials at EPA and the NHTSA to press their case. They will also meet with officials at the USDA and State Department to discuss the effect that the proposed rule could have on commodity prices that would, in turn, impact global markets.