Our New Year’s Resolution: Create New Demand and Protect Public Health

by Dave Vander Griend, President Urban Air Initiative

We all know the game– we wake up January first and we resolve to change something.  At the Urban Air Initiative, our New Year’s resolution is twofold.

The first part is to stop stressing over the volume obligations in the RFS and to create new value and demand for ethanol. The second is to do everything in our power to ensure that the air we breathe is not killing us, and to expose what is the real “inconvenient truth”, which is the nightmare that is consumer gasoline. The two are quite intertwined and achievable as a pair.

Last November’s decision by EPA to limit the amount of biofuels was disappointing, but hardly surprising and it should be a wakeup call that ethanol needs to establish markets and value beyond government imposed limitations.

So our resolution in this New Year must in part be to secure our own future and recognize that ethanol’s highest value is not what bureaucrats at EPA say it is by imposing a number, but rather as a clean fuel that can provide high octane to replace the toxic compounds in gasoline while reducing a range of harmful emissions.

We have spent years researching the relationship of gasoline based emissions to what is nothing short of an alarming trend of rising respiratory and even neurological ailments ranging from asthma to autism. Pollution and related health problems near roadways are decidedly higher than open air locations and the high concentrations of benzene, toluene, and xylene–known and suspected carcinogens– are not a coincidence. But here is where our two New Year’s resolutions can meet.

Aromatics, the toxic compounds that we believe are the culprits for many health problems, are synthesized by refiners to produce octane. Let’s stop that, and in so doing meet one of our resolutions which is to ensure the air we breathe is not killing us. Since ethanol is a clean and superior octane additive, we can achieve our next resolution of breaking the shackles of the RFS and establishing a high value application for ethanol.

UAI has identified a number of steps EPA can take to provide access to the market, all of which will improve fuel quality and protect public health.  Specifically, UAI has called for EPA to:

  • Lift the Vapor Pressure Restriction on higher blends since RVP actually goes down as ethanol volumes go up;
  • Enforce Section 202 (l) of the Clean Air Act to limit aromatics and open the market for ethanol as a source of clean octane;
  • Reinstate fuel economy credits (CAFE) and prorate them for mid-level blends;
  • Raise the minimum octane requirement for gasoline;

Revise modeling for both the life cycle analysis of biofuels and the emissions profile, notably the MOVES Model.The RFS has done its job up to this point in building a bridge but from here on we need to seize our future and look forward, not backward. Happy New Year and good luck with those resolutions!!