Congress is considering a revised version of the Open Fuel Standard Act, an Act that was originally introduced two years ago but failed to pass. Representatives Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) introduced a bipartisan bill that would require more and more new vehicles to be able to run on at least some non-petroleum fuels. The requirements would be for 30 percent of new vehicles to be alt-fuel ready in 2016, 50 percent in 2017 and 50 percent in each subsequent year.

The bill calls for more vehicles that run on methanol, flex-fuel, natural gas, hydrogen, ethanol, biodiesel, plug-in hybrid drive, fuel cells and a broad category for "new technologies."

That's much lower than the original bill. While the new version tops out at 50 percent, the original would have required 95 percent (!) of all new vehicles to meet be alt-fuel capable. Unsurprisingly, automakers were not happy with that high level, according to the Methanol Institute. The institute now strongly supports the new bill, which includes methanol as an alt-fuel option along with flex-fuel, natural gas, hydrogen, ethanol, biodiesel, plug-in hybrids, fuel cells and a broad category for "new technologies."

Rep. Engel has worked hard to get the Open Fuel Standard Act passed. He has introduced it as an amendment to 10 appropriation bills over the past three years and it's been tied to President Obama's 2011 Memorandum of Federal Fleet Performance that requires all of its new light-duty vehicles to be alt-fuel by the end of 2015.

For members of Congress concerned mostly about reducing carbon emissions, the Open Fuel Standard Act might be difficult to swallow because it doesn't actively require reductions. For example, there are dual-fuel (or bi-fuel) trucks that can run on natural gas or gasoline, flex-fuel vehicles capable of taking up to 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline and plug-in hybrids powered by an electric motor and an internal combustion engine. That means it's up each driver to decide how many miles are moved by cleaner fuels and how many by old-fashioned petroleum. The new bill has found support from the original bill's co-sponsors Reps. Steve Israel (D-NY), Allyson Schwartz (D-PA), Tom Cole (R-OK), Collin Peterson (D-MN) and Delegate Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam).


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  • 23 Comments
      carney373
      • 2 Years Ago
      Hooray, OFSA coverage!! This bill is one of the most important, yet most neglected and ignored items of legislation in the last several years. If made law it would be a huge game-changer, smashing the "you go first" problem of alt-fuel cars and alt-fuel stations. With at least half of new cars after a few years being alt-fuel compatible, the era of gasoline only being the norm comes to an end, and filling station owners considering alt-fuel but worried that they won't have enough compatible cars out there is over too. I'm disappointed that Engel gave way on the requirement that nearly all cars be alt-fuel compatible. I don't think reducing it to 50% will pick up enough supporters to be worth the negative impact on policy outcome. Indeed, it actually adds credence to the falsehood being peddled by the bill's opponents that this requirement is somehow onerous. It's not. Making a gasoline-only car model flex-fuel at the factory is one of the cheapest possible modifications to a given line an automaker can make. It costs $130 per new car at most, and these days a lot less, as little as 41 cents. The reduction in the per car cost is a result of the fact that most new cars sold these days already have alcohol compatible fuel tanks, fuel lines, etc. and lack only the proper model of computer chip in the electronic fuel injector. Other cars have a chip that can handle alcohol content just fine, but need the seals in the system to be better quality. See this story in the (conservative!) magazine National Review, "Methanol Wins" by Dr. Robert Zubrin, author of "Energy Victory" which is a brilliant book promoting the open fuel standard strategy. http://www.nationalreview.com/content/methanol-wins
      EVnerdGene
      • 2 Years Ago
      Congress; please, please, please, GO HOME !
      raktmn
      • 2 Years Ago
      Just so everyone understands the long term US energy policy regarding ethanol, let me cover it again. (This is so basic, it should be an ABG "Greenlings" topic). Back in 2005 the Republican Senate, Republican House, and Republican President passed the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in a bipartisan bill, that set out targets for 4 different types of renewable biofuel production. The RFS sets a production cap on ethanol produced from corn at 15 Billion gallons per year. We are currently producing 14 Billion gallons per year after a 35 year long ramp-up. We will hit that 15 Billion gallon cap on corn ethanol in 2015, and all additional ethanol/biofuels will need to come from cellulosic ethanol, or advanced biofuels (like bio-syngas), or biodiesel, etc. Why the production cap at 15 Billion gallons per year? Because the people who wrote the RFS could do math, and they knew how many acres of land the US gov't was paying farmers to keep fallow. They also knew how much that was costing the US taxpayers in subsidies to farmers. The 15 Billion gallon cap means that we will not have any single acre of land taken out of food production in order to make ethanol. 100% of the land needed to grow 15 Billion gallons of ethanol per year represents land that the US gov't is no longer paying farmers to not use to grow anything. And even at the 15 Billion level, there will still be plenty of land left fallow. We are very far from hitting "peak farmland" where we wouldn't have enough land to grow food. This is a win/win where taxpayers are paying less in farm subsidies to not grow corn, while keeping more money here in the United States instead of sending that money abroad. This is simple Greenlings stuff. If you don't understand these basic concepts of what once was bipartisan US Energy Policy to get us off of foreign energy sources, maybe you should refrain from making pointed assertions about ethanol, and just ask honest questions.
      • 2 Years Ago
      I bet the reason so many on this list are for the Open Fuel Standard is that it is not focused on transitioning to renewable energy. This legislation is written by natural gas industry supporters, such as the Methanol Institute with the intent to undermine use of bio-ethanol (with butane-based ethanol such as that made by Sunoco, now owned by natural gas interests). Read more about how use of higher ethanol blends in engines like Ecoboost and Ecotech (search "E30 capable") make them MORE efficient. Forcing car manufacturers to make engines that can operate on multiple fuels means they aren't optimized for the most efficient use of fuel. For more, see http://advancedbiofuelsusa.info/advanced-biofuels-usa-publishes-paper-and-slide-presentation-on-truly-optimized-flex-fuel-vehicles-benefits-and-how-to-achieve-them
        Rob Mahrt
        • 2 Years Ago
        But now.. are engines optimized to run on E30? The most efficient fuel, as you say? I am pretty sure they are optimized to run on E10, 89 octane. Which is what probably 85% of the public is putting into their cars every day. Without cars being able to accept all forms of fuel safely, how would the mass use of your favorite fuel, E30, ever occur unless congress passed a law saying it was the only allowable fuel to be used (which will never happen)?
      Allch Chcar
      • 2 Years Ago
      We need this or something like it. If you think it somehow inhibits free market, you have it backwards. Most people don't have the choice of what they can use for fuel. The decision to release alt fuel vehicles rests on automakers who are consumed with making Gasoline fueled cars and trucks.
      carney373
      • 2 Years Ago
      By the way, in 2008, the Obama-Biden campaign's official energy policy document listed a flex fuel mandate as a campaign promise. See the top of page 5, here, listed on none other than the official US Department of Energy website: http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/edg/media/Obama_New_Energy_0804.pdf "• MandateAllNewVehicles are Flexible FuelVehicles. Sustainably‐produced biofuels can create  jobs, protect the environment and help end oil addiction – but only if Americans drive cars that  will take such fuels. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will work with Congress and auto companies to  ensure that all new vehicles have FFV capability – the capability by the end of his first term in  office."  It was buried in a list of bullet points, never mentioned again that I recall, and never followed up on in office. But they promised it, in writing. Where's Obama's leadership on this issue? Unlike many other issues, this was something that could realistically get done with enough Republican support to pass. McCain had also promised to support a flex fuel mandate. McCain did so in a speech in California in June 2008. He had the pre-condition that he'd give the automakers a chance to make flex fuel capability a standard feature on their own, but if they didn't he'd support a mandate. http://www.cfr.org/energy-policy/mccains-speech-energy-security-national-security/p16626 "Instead of playing favorites, our government should level the playing field for all alcohol fuels that break the monopoly of gasoline, lowering both gasoline prices and carbon emissions. And this can be done with a simple federal standard to hasten the conversion of all new vehicles in America to flex-fuel technology -- allowing drivers to use alcohol fuels instead of gas in their cars. Brazil went from about five to over 70 percent of all new vehicles with flex-fuel capacity. It did all that in just three years. Yet those same automakers that helped Brazil make the change say it will take them longer to reach the goal of 50 percent new flex-fuel vehicles for America. But I am confident they can do more, and do it faster, in the interest of our energy security. And if I am elected president, they will. Whether it takes a meeting with automakers during my first month in office, or my signature on an act of Congress, we will meet the goal of a swift conversion of American vehicles away from oil." Not only that, but a substantial portion of movement, hard-core conservatives also support this idea, despite its supposed violation of free-market principles, because of their higher prioritization of national security issues and their desire to collapse the troublemaking budget of Mideastern oil regimes. That's why previous Congresses saw the OFSA being co-sponsored by none other than Tea Party favorite Rep Alan West (R-FL). Pretty hard to get to HIS right. Sadly, at least from the perspective of looking for conservative "cover" on this issue, West is now out of office. Missed chance!
        EVnerdGene
        • 2 Years Ago
        @carney373
        If all cars in the US ran on E-85; what percentage of our farmland would have to used to grow "ethanol" corn ?
          raktmn
          • 2 Years Ago
          @EVnerdGene
          As for antibiotics and cattle, the biggest reason why food animals (chickens, cattle, pigs, etc) are given antibiotics is for the side-effects, not to keep them healthy. Most food animals are given what is called a "sub-clinical" dose of antibiotics. That means they are given a dose too small to actually function as an antibiotic. Why is this done? This is done because they have figured out that they do not need a full dose in order to trigger the faster weight gain that comes from taking antibiotics. And they don't want to pay for a full dose if they can just use a fraction of a dose. Antibiotics in cattle rarely has anything to do with keeping them healthy. It is a way to make them fat that is more socially acceptable to the general public than using steroids. Who is going to object to using antibiotics to keep cattle healthy? At least that is the public relations mentality. The issue of the fattening diet that is given in feed lots is a completely different issue than antibiotics, and has nothing to do with distilling ethanol. They would be fed corn if not fed distiller's grain.
          carney373
          • 2 Years Ago
          @EVnerdGene
          Why did you put ethanol in scare quotes? In any case, your question is stupid for several reasons. 1. The OFSA's proposed mandate does not solely require flex fuel capability. Its alt-fuel or alt-power compatibility requirement can be fulfilled instead by having the car run on biodiesel, CNG, hydrogen, electricity from a plug, a fuel cell that doesn't use oil-derived fuel, or something else (such as a modern steam engine like the Cyclone engine) that doesn't use an internal combustion engine and oil fuel. 2. Even the flex fuel mandate does not require only E85 compatibility. Rather, it also specifically requires a flex fuel vehicle to be compatible with M85 methanol. Methanol is made from natural gas, coal, or any biomass without exception and is significantly cheaper, not only than ethanol but also than gasoline, and not only on a per-gallon but also on a per-mile basis, without subsidies. While the bill would thus undoubtedly be a boon for ethanol, by far the bigger impact would be its bringing methanol into the mainstream. A few years after enactment, gas stations will find themselves racing each other to add a methanol pump to avoid being undercut by their local rivals. 3. No one, even the most fervent ethanol defenders, has ever claimed that E85 in general, let alone E85 derived from corn, can fully replace gasoline on its own. However, I HAVE pointed out the reality that only half our arable land is farmland, less than half of that is even cultivated, and only a tiny fraction of that is being currently used for ethanol corn; thus we have a lot of room for expansion. http://www.thenewatlantis.com/imgLib/20080520_DefenseofBiofuelsTableL.gif
          EVnerdGene
          • 2 Years Ago
          @EVnerdGene
          I put the quotes around ethanol because ethanol proponents are always claiming that a lower quality corn is used for making ethanol; not corn we'd normally use for human consumption. Then the left-over crap is used to feed cattle. Some have even said its better because it is "sterilized" ? Then we can use antibiotics and probiotics to keep the cattle from getting sick on this crap on their fast-track to markets. Yum. - - - - OK, you don't want to answer the percentage of current farmland it would take to fill our cars with E-85. How about the percentage of current farmland it would take to fill even half of our private vehicles with E-85 ?
          Rob Mahrt
          • 2 Years Ago
          @EVnerdGene
          Where does it say anywhere in anything ever written about the open fuel standard that the goal is to get all cars in the US to run on corn based E85 ethanol? No where... oh that is right.
          raktmn
          • 2 Years Ago
          @EVnerdGene
          EVnerdGene- You have falsely conflated all ethanol to be corn ethanol. Please read the Renewable Fuel Standards laws of 2005 and 2007 and understand that the United States long term plan for biofuels is to have less than half the biofuels coming from corn ethanol.
      EZEE
      • 2 Years Ago
      Curious how people will comment on this one - bi-partisan, but most alt fuels (ethanol) have not been that popular here....
        • 2 Years Ago
        @EZEE
        Do you envision it is a lack of education/knowledge around the benefits of ethanol as a fuel supply? Turn people's attention to octane and the answer is ethanol. Big oil wants to limit the use and it's all about protecting market share. Run a history of corn prices vs. a barrel of oil and people will be much more in tune. How have we come to accept rising fuel prices?
          EZEE
          • 2 Years Ago
          Opinions are fine, but many people get emotionally involved with their field and cars. I do not quite understand it (well I do, but to complicated), but I know the mention of ethanol usually had people screaming.
        raktmn
        • 2 Years Ago
        @EZEE
        I think many people are focused on the fact that an EV running on solar/wind/green electricity truly is the superior solution for people who can afford to put the up-front money into it, and for individual car buyers where an EV/PHEV meets the specific needs of their personal driving habits. Biofuels are really just a way to help clean up our ICE cars we continue to build while we transition to more EV's and PHEV's. It is going to be a long time until we stop mass producing ICE vehicles. And incrementally cleaning up ICE engines isn't as interesting as the cutting edge stuff that leap-frogs ICE technology. Look at how regular gas hybrid stories are covered here too. They barely get any attention compared to stories about EV's/PHEV's. And if the hybrid doesn't come close to Prius MPG numbers, you can bet it will get bashed for it, maybe even a "not green" comment or two.
      raktmn
      • 2 Years Ago
      For anyone who hates corn because of the gov't subsidies, the Republican House just passed the largest hike in big ag subsidies in decades to farmers that are currently making record profits. If you are a farmer, under the house bill you would be guaranteed 90% of these record profit amounts every year, even if your crop fails. This is socializing the entire risk of farming, while privatizing record profits. Thanks to your Republican House. Oh, and corn ethanol? It actually REDUCES the subsidies farmers get for keeping their land fallow and not farming it at all. Putting that land into production instead of paying farmers to keep that land fallow reduces those farm subsidies by approx. one third.
      EVnerdGene
      • 2 Years Ago
      Carney doesn't seem to want to answer my question about how much farmland it would take if HALF of all gasoline powered cars suddenly switched to E85? 13.948 B gallons of ethanol produced in 2012. ~134 B gallons of gasoline consumed. That's 10.4% by volume. (We did export some? Spills? Evaporative losses?) So we're already right at 10% ethanol use in our entire gas-powered fleet. Increase to HALF using E85, the rest still using E10. I get we'd have to increase our ethanol production by 4.7 times. Current acreage used for cultivation of "ethanol" corn: 25.1 Million acres (2012). Number of acres cultivated in the US (2012): 408 Million acres. That's currently (2012) 6.2% of farmland used for ethanol production. If we increased it by 4.7 times, that means we'd have to plant 118 Million acres in ethanol corn Which would increase our total acreage used for ethanol production to 28.9 % of all cultivated farmland. We'd be losing 22.7% of our farmland now used for food production. BTW: We're already losing 3000 acres per day to development (gov. figures) 8% in the past 20 years. Not likely this trend will reverse. BTW: We're also increasing the amount of food we import every year, now ~15%. Exporting ~23%. Food for fuel ? I vote STOP the stupid. http://www.epa.gov/agriculture/ag101/landuse.html http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/crops/corn/background.aspx "Strong demand for ethanol production has resulted in higher corn prices" http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=27&t=10 "33% less energy content in E85" "3.3% decrease in MPG when using E10"
        Rob Mahrt
        • 2 Years Ago
        @EVnerdGene
        Well first, this is 50% of production vehicles by 2017, which means it would take until 2027 (10 year lifespan of normal vehicle) for 50% of vehicles on the road to able to use E85, so 15 years to adjust to these issues. Second, all this is saying is the cars have to be able to accept. If people do not want to use the E85, or if it turns out that it costs way too much to produce, because of the massive requirement for new land as you suspect, then people wont use it. Even now there are certain vehicles that accept E85, what percent of people are actually taking advantage? I would assume a small percent. Finally, the goal is NOT to get 50% of vehicles to run on E85. The goal is to get 50% of vehicles to be open to run on natural gas, ethanol (which has many more sources then stickily corn, which I assume corn is the crop your numbers are based off of), and methanol. Methanol and Ethanol has many different feed crops other than corn, including some waste products that are current thrown out. 15 years from now the cellulose fuels may have rapidly advanced making then extremely economical versus oil, corn, coal, maybe even sugar. The goal is to make it possible for an American consumer to choose if they would like to use another fuel other than oil derived gasoline. What can possibly be wrong with giving people this option.
        raktmn
        • 2 Years Ago
        @EVnerdGene
        Your math is fatally flawed, because you don't understand the RFS laws. There is a 15 Billion gallon cap on corn-ethanol, and 70% of the corn (measured by calories and protein) used to make corn ethanol is put right back in the food chain. Using your numbers, we would need 1.8 million more acres of land to reach the 15 Billion gallon corn-ethanol cap. But because of the distiller's grain, 1.255 million acres of that land would have had to have been used to grow corn feed from cattle anyways. So the net new land required to be planted in corn is just 0.545 million acres. Half a million acres out of our 408 million acres we already have planted is about 1% of our farm land, and still only a drop in the bucket of the 70 million acres we pay farmers not to grow food on: From the GAO: "Cumulatively, USDA paid $10.6 billion—almost one-fourth of total direct payments from 2003 through 2011—to producers who did not, in a given year, plant any of the crop for which they had base acres. Specifically, during this period, producers cumulatively did not plant more than 633 million acres with the crops associated with their base acres in a given year. This amounted to an average of 70 million acres each year, or 26 percent of the 268 million base acres on average that are annually eligible for direct payments." Why do you want to increase the amount of land we pay farmers to keep fallow from 70 million acres a year, to nearly 100 million acres a year by eliminating corn ethanol?
        EVnerdGene
        • 2 Years Ago
        @EVnerdGene
        Oh krap, correction: I forgot that E85 gives 33% less MPG than E0 (pure gas). So by my revised precise calculations, we would need 5.9 times as much farmland planted in ethanol corn (instead of the 4.7 times shown above) to fill HALF our cars with E85, and the remainder with E10. This would take 36.3% of our current farmland to grow the ethanol corn. Losing 30.1% of our current farmland. "Stupid is as stupid does." Forrest Gump
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