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RFA Applauds Senate Bill Stimulating Flex Fuel Vehicle Production

The Renewable Fuels Association today welcomed the Senate introduction of the Flex Fuel Fairness Act, a bill that encourages automakers to produce more flex fuel vehicles (FFVs) capable of operating on low-carbon ethanol flex fuels like E85. The bill, introduced by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Pete Ricketts (R-NE), would help to level the playing field for FFVs by properly recognizing the emissions benefits associated with using E85 flex fuels (which contain 51-83 percent ethanol).

“We thank Senators Klobuchar and Ricketts for introducing the Flex Fuel Fairness Act, which appropriately acknowledges the emissions benefits of FFVs and flex fuels and rewards automakers who continue producing these popular vehicles,” said RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper. “This legislation helps unlock the potential of renewable fuels and puts more tools in the toolbox for automakers who must comply with increasingly stringent vehicle emissions standards. By leveling the playing field for the production of all clean vehicle technologies, this bill allows low-carbon liquid fuels like ethanol to work alongside clean electricity, electric vehicles, and other technologies to reduce emissions from transportation.”

The legislation is designed to create more equitable incentives and market signals for the production of a broader portfolio of clean vehicle technologies. Under current EPA emissions regulations, battery electric vehicles (EVs) benefit from an assumption that there are zero carbon emissions associated with operating the vehicle. EPA announced plans to make the “zero emissions” assumption permanent for EVs in its recent proposed rule for 2027-2032 emissions standards. In essence, EPA’s regulations assume a battery EV will always operate on zero-carbon electricity over its entire lifetime.

To create an equitable incentive for the continued production of FFVs, today’s legislation creates a similar assumption that FFVs always operate on E85—a fuel that reduces lifecycle GHG emissions by 31 percent compared to gasoline. Thus, for the purposes of demonstrating compliance with vehicle emissions standards, the legislation allows automakers to use an emissions value for an FFV that is 31 percent lower than the emissions value for the corresponding non-FFV model.

“If EPA regulations are going to credit EVs for their maximum theoretical carbon emissions benefit, then it stands to reason that the agency should also credit FFVs for their maximum possible carbon emissions benefit,” Cooper said. “This bill would ensure that EPA is being fair and equitable in the way it uses emissions values as policy incentives to stimulate the production of lower-carbon vehicles.”

Even as demand for low-carbon E85 has soared in recent years, the number of new FFV models has decreased significantly in recent years, Cooper said, as previous regulatory incentives for FFV production have been phased out by EPA. For the model year 2023, the only FFVs available to consumers are select Ford Explorer, F-150 and Transit models. As recently as the model year 2015, more than 80 different FFV models from eight manufacturers were available to consumers. Click here to see a chart of models available as flex fuel.

More than 5,700 gas stations currently offer E85 in the United States, and the fuel typically sells for 20-25 percent less than regular gasoline. Click here for locations and a price tracker.

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