New data shows EPA’s emissions model regarding ethanol is flawed

Washington, D.C., July 8, 2015:  New documents filed with the U.S Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. show that the model used by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to measure tailpipe emissions inaccurately blames ethanol for increased air pollution, according to the Urban Air Initiative and several collaborating organizations. The new data demonstrates the model is flawed and could jeopardize any hope for ethanol expansion.

The written arguments were filed as part of an ongoing legal challenge by the Urban Air Initiative, Energy Future Coalition, the State of Kansas and the State of Nebraska. These groups are asking that the EPA suspend its use of the Motor Vehicle Emissions Simulator (MOVES) model based on faulty and incomplete data. States are required to use this model to demonstrate compliance with federal air quality standards and would effectively be prohibited from using more ethanol under this model.

The Urban Air Initiative hired a certified fuels modeling consulting firm to run the MOVES model by adding various levels of ethanol to gasoline. But due to faulty fuel blending in the model, ethanol blends are shown to increase most of the pollutants regulated under the Clean Air Act, when in fact the opposite is true when using fuels currently marketed to consumers.

“The consultant confirmed our fears, which was that this model is biased against ethanol and blocks the goal of Urban Air Initiative to reduce toxic emissions and promote a cleaner fuel for today and future generations,” said UAI President Dave VanderGriend. “We have clear data to support that when simply adding ethanol to gasoline, a better fuel is created with fewer toxic emissions. However, the calculations in the MOVES model were primarily directed by oil interests and do not reflect what happens in the real world.”

The new data submitted to the court follows a series of steps the plaintiffs have taken during the past year, including a direct appeal to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to suspend the model. The primary flaw in the EPA model, according to the petition, is that the test procedures changed the gasoline’s overall makeup by adding unnecessary toxic compounds known as aromatics, such as benzene and toluene. Independent auto industry studies also call into question the EPA blending procedures and support the argument that these test fuels do not reflect real world fuels.

“We call on the EPA to reduce our dependence on petroleum and protect our citizens from harmful emissions by removing this false barrier to access cleaner fuels”, said VanderGriend. “We believe the courts will take a fair and impartial look at this issue and agree that the use of this model should be suspended and a new model, based on more accurate data, be developed.”

According to VanderGriend, the flaws in the MOVES model may be the single most important issue the ethanol industry will face in its ability to expand. He explained that the Renewable Fuel Standard has effectively capped the amount of ethanol that will be required and any additional use would be limited by the inaccurate portrayal of ethanol in the MOVES model. “In recent rulemakings from EPA we have seen ethanol projections that basically show no growth over the next decade. Now we understand why. They assume the emissions model will not allow blends above 10%, leaving us where we are today.”

However, UAI’s data shows that when simply adding ethanol to gasoline, it can reduce a majority of the aromatics. This produces a cleaner burning fuel, resulting in less air pollution while still providing the octane needed by vehicles.

Reid Detchon, Executive Director of the Energy Future Coalition, said they have been working to limit the volume of aromatics like benzene in gasoline for the past decade and are learning more every day about the dangers of these compounds.

“EPA acknowledges that ethanol, with its high octane properties, would be an excellent substitute for what the petroleum industry is currently using. However, these testing procedures in the MOVES model are so skewed that they obscure the health benefits that could be achieved by allowing higher blends of ethanol.”

Detchon said they hope the model can be suspended until its flaws are addressed and call on EPA to undertake a new emissions study to provide a more accurate data base for the predictions in the model.

The legal petition was prepared by the law firm Boyden Gray and Associates in cooperation with the Attorneys General of Kansas and Nebraska. Kanas and Nebraska have also outlined how the use of the MOVES model will cause significant harm to their states.

For more information about the new data regarding ethanol and the MOVES model, contact Kim Trinchet at kim@urbanairinitiative.com or 316-977-4230.