APRIL 2013


(Posted Fri. Apr 5th, 2013)

Apr. 5: Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released the proposed “Control of Air Pollution from Motor Vehicles: Tier 3 Motor Vehicle Emission and Fuel Standards” as an update to the Tier 2 fuel emission regulations released in 2000. These standards increase the level of stringency with which vehicle emissions are regulated with the goal of decreasing air pollution. While these more stringent regulations on sulfur, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter innately benefit Americans by providing cleaner air, they also represent an opportunity to increase the use of renewable, high-octane ethanol.

“While no one is sure at this point of every implication and ramification of the Tier 3 recommendations, farmers have always understood the importance of clean air, clean land and clean water,” said NCGA Ethanol Committee Chair Chad Willis. “Ethanol offers a variety of benefits to America, from increasing the octane in fuel to helping reduce air pollution. We hope that, as we work toward a greener tomorrow, the renewable, sustainable nature of this domestically-produced fuel is not overlooked.”

Specifically, the proposal aims to decrease air pollution including changes to the amount of sulfur in gasoline decreased down from 30 to 10 parts per million. Additionally, these standards would decrease the amount of nitrogen oxide and particulate matter considered acceptable from vehicle emissions.

“The proposed gasoline sulfur standard would make emission control systems more effective for both existing and new vehicles, and would enable more stringent vehicle emissions standards since removing sulfur allows the vehicle’s catalyst to work more effi­ciently,” according to the EPA.

Since the U.S. light-duty vehicle fleet consumes half of the petroleum used domestically and is responsible for about 17 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions, the Tier 3 emission standards play an important role in improving air quality and reducing health-related issues prevalent in urban areas as a result of air pollution.

To better reflect the fact that 95 percent of today’s fuel contains 10 percent ethanol, the proposed rule also outlines changing the certification fuel, what automobile manufacturers use to certify car emissions, from one without ethanol to one containing ethanol.

Through its analysis, EPA calculates the new Tier 3 regulations will cost the refining industry less than one cent per gallon. Since removing sulfur during the petroleum refining process destroys octane components, new and/or modified processes will be needed for the industry to meet these standards. As ethanol provides octane to the fuel, it offers a natural solution that would provide octane through inclusion of a renewable, environmentally conscious option that is already available.

EPA is also open to requests from automakers to consider an alternative certification fuel containing a mid-level blend of ethanol. This would allow the move from flexible-fuel vehicles to vehicles with engines optimized to take advantage of the octane provided by ethanol, which could satisfy EPA’s call for more fuel efficient engines in the proposed rule.

Once this is published in the Federal Register, the public will have 30 days to provide comments to this 938-page document outlining the proposed regulations.