Ethanol’s Biggest Advocate May Be EPA?
Washington D.C., June 5, 2017: In plot twist that may open the door to higher ethanol blends, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) received an engine patent it has been pursuing for nearly a decade for a high efficiency, high compression engine that uses blends such as E30.
In contrast to what has appeared to be a history of regulatory roadblocks for ethanol, EPA’s National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory has spent nine years working to patent a high efficiency engine designed to take advantage of the benefits unique to higher ethanol blends.
After several appeals and re-boots, the patent was granted based on EPA’s argument in a 2014 appeal. Here is an excerpt. “There is a great need in the world at this time for a highly efficient and commercially viable alcohol fuel engine…Brazil, for example, predominantly uses ethanol for transportation fuel in place of gasoline…”
David VanderGriend, President of the Urban Air Initiative (UAI) said this action supports and validates years of UAI research and data analysis that high octane ethanol blends are superior motor fuels to gasoline, if engines are designed to take advantage of ethanol’s properties. EPA also relied on work by the Coordinating Research Council (CRC) which is a joint auto and oil industry research organization. They cited a CRC study that concluded: “If the octane number increase were to be derived by addition of ethanol to gasoline, larger torque increases may be possible in turbocharged DI engines due to the high latent heat of vaporization of ethanol. An E30 blend with 91 RON gasoline blend-stock could potentially improve torque by 50% but this level of increase is not proven in any vehicle application…”
VanderGriend noted that an E30 100 RON can easily be made by splash blending 20% ethanol on to today’s E10. The question this action raises, according to VanderGriend, is what was EPA’s intent in getting this patent?
“Here we have EPA agreeing that higher ethanol blends can reduce emissions and acknowledging that engines and fuels must be looked at as an integrated system. Adjusting compression to address the slightly lower energy content of ethanol while taking advantage of the octane is something automakers can do. But the inconsistencies with these findings and the actions of the regulators is maddening. The reason we have not seen these engines coming out of the auto industry is the roadblocks EPA has created keeping ethanol out of the market.”
As examples, he noted that in the Tier 3 Rulemaking of 2016 EPA officials declined to provide a pathway for certifying E30 as an approved fuel after asking for comments on doing so. They have declined to lift unnecessary vapor pressure restrictions on higher blends. They have failed to update lifecycle and emission models that validate ethanol’s positive impact on emissions. And they have eliminated GHG and mileage credits for automakers who have clearly stated they would be able to take advantage of these higher ethanol blends if some credits, which are disproportionately applied to electric vehicles, were available to them. Under the current system automakers are essentially mandated to produce electric vehicles despite the higher cost and lack of consumer acceptance.
VanderGriend said there has been a great deal of concern expressed by UAI supporters and many in the ethanol industry that this is an effort to actually limit the use of ethanol by protecting these high efficiency engines and the use of a 30% ethanol blend.
“Let’s give EPA the benefit of the doubt and proceed under the assumption this is an effort to make the design and emission data available to US industry as a positive return on the taxpayer dollars that went in to this research. It could be a boost to our auto industry, it supports the President’s commitment to rural America, and fosters our policy of economic and energy independence,” he said.
VanderGriend said UAI may apply for a license from EPA and hopes our own government agency will provide it to American companies at no cost or restrictions.