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RFA: EPA’s Tailpipe Emissions Standards Disregard Ethanol’s Carbon Benefits

By failing to recognize and appropriately credit the benefits of ethanol, the 2027-2032 tailpipe emissions standards finalized today by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency disregard an obvious near-term opportunity for achieving significant vehicle efficiency improvements and greenhouse gas emissions reductions, according to the Renewable Fuels Association.

“While we share the Biden administration’s vision for reducing carbon emissions and increasing energy efficiency, today’s final rule certainly isn’t the best way to accomplish that goal,” said RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper. “Clearly, the substantive concerns raised by automakers, ethanol producers, fuel suppliers, consumer groups, and many others went unheard by the White House and EPA. Today’s final rule effectively forces automakers to produce more battery electric vehicles based on the false premise that they are ‘zero-emission vehicles.’ At the same time, the regulation would strongly discourage manufacturers from pursuing other technologies—like flex fuel vehicles and engines optimized to operate on high-octane, low-carbon ethanol—that could achieve superior environmental performance at a lower cost to American consumers.”

Throughout the rulemaking process, RFA strongly encouraged EPA to abandon its de facto EV mandate and instead adopt a technology-neutral, full lifecycle analysis approach for assessing the true greenhouse gas impacts of various transportation options. Unfortunately, EPA’s final rule continues to ignore the significant upstream emissions related to electricity generation, as well as the substantial emissions involved in battery mineral extraction and processing.

RFA initially urged EPA to reconsider its emissions standards proposal with testimony at a hearing in May 2023, and also took part in a joint letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan in July. In its extensive comments submitted to EPA that month, RFA noted that multiple studies show ethanol significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions and is on the way to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 or sooner.

“If our nation is to reach its goal of net-zero GHG emissions by mid-century, we’ll need both cleaner, more efficient cars and cleaner, more efficient fuels,” RFA said in those comments. “And we’ll need to account for their emissions honestly using a full lifecycle approach. Focusing only on emissions from the vehicle—while ignoring emissions related to the extraction and production of the fuel used to power the vehicle—will almost certainly result in falling far short of the administration’s overall climate goals.”

RFA noted that voters are expressing increased concerns about the potential impact of EPA’s tailpipe regulations on future vehicle choices and prices. In a nationwide survey of 1,991 registered voters conducted last week, 68 percent said they oppose policies that mandate EVs, up from 63 percent when the same question was asked in September 2023. Meanwhile, more than two-thirds of voters responding support policies that expand the availability of high-octane mid-level ethanol blends and flex fuel vehicles.

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