Urban Air Initiative calls on CARB to recognize role of ethanol in reducing carbon

Colwich, KS, May 26, 2016: In comments filed today with the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the Urban Air Initiative (UAI) made a compelling case for higher octane, lower carbon fuels like mid-level ethanol blends to help the state meet its carbon reduction goals.

Specifically, CARB had requested comments on its efforts to deal with brown and black carbon through what the state is calling its Short Lived Climate Pollutant Reduction Strategy. These carbon molecules are formed via incomplete combustion of fuels, with fossil fuels being particularly problematic as it relates to global warming potential.
UAI’s comments focused on providing documented technical and scientific information challenging CARB’s position that current diesel controls and new vehicle technologies are effective strategies. UAI argues that gasoline is the predominant transportation fuel and CARB, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency undervalue the contribution of gasoline to the problem.

Click here to read comments submitted to CARB

“The best available science shows that the predominant urban source of particulate and black carbon emissions is gasoline exhaust. Specifically, the 25 – 30% of gasoline that is comprised of petroleum-derived octane boosting compounds known as aromatic hydrocarbons, including known carcinogens like benzene,” UAI President Dave Vander Griend said.

The UAI comments cite several studies and experts that have linked particulate matter emissions and black carbon in particular, to the use of aromatic compounds in gasoline. Many scientists trace ultrafine particulates emissions from light duty vehicles to incomplete combustion of these aromatics.

This problem of increased particulates is likely to get worse according to the UAI data. Meeting the California low carbon fuel standards by 2020 and the more aggressive targets for 2030 will require a fleet-wide transition to light-duty vehicle technologies capable of much greater efficiency. UAI argues that such vehicles will require high octane fuels and if that octane continues to be derived from petroleum, it will increase carbon as well as overall CO2 emissions.

UAI noted that even the University of California-Riverside, which has traditionally been a critic of ethanol cautioned in a 2015 report that, “increasing the ethanol fraction in gasoline could help to reduce climate and human health impacts attributed to particle emissions from Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) vehicles. . . . As ethanol concentrations are increased in the U.S., the higher octane fuel could effectively decrease BC emissions from the high PM emitting GDI vehicles thus helping to minimize BC.”

UAI’s comments also urged CARB to address a number of related issues ranging from testing procedures, real time measurements of plumes, and best available science relating to corn ethanol and its Carbon Intensity (CI) rating. In addition, UAI noted that carbon reductions provide benefits well beyond simply thwarting climate change.

The nano and ultra fine particles tied to toxic aromatic emissions are increasingly linked to a range of respiratory and even neurological health issues. Studies by the U.S. Department of Energy and its laboratories have found high octane fuels using ethanol can provide immediate efficiency gains and ghg reductions as compared to electric vehicles and other longer range strategies.

“These are complex and highly technical issues,” said Mr. VanderGriend. “But the bottom line is that we have a clean, low carbon fuel that can make a much greater contribution to meeting a host of public policy objectives than California recognizes. As a national and global leader in the field of regulating fuels and emissions, we hope these comments and the information submitted can help them see how we can connect the dots of renewable fuels, fuel economy, protecting public health, and managing climate change.”