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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