Bill Would Promote Fuel Choice

Cindy Zimmerman

Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Dick Lugar (R-IN) have introduced a bill that would ensure most new vehicles in the United States are capable of running on a range of domestically produced alternative fuels starting in 2015.

By introducing competition among fuels, the Open Fuels Standard (OFS) Act aims to bring about significant reductions in fuel prices paid by U.S. consumers. Transportation fuel choice could also sharply reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and reduce the $200 billion “monopoly premium” the Department of Energy calculates U.S. consumers currently pay to OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) and other foreign oil producers each year through excessive petroleum prices. Keeping this money within U.S. borders would sharply cut the U.S. trade deficit, safeguard U.S household income, and provide capital and market incentive for investment in new U.S. energy infrastructure.

“For too long oil has had a monopoly over transportation fuel and American drivers have had no choice but to pay volatile and elevated prices at the pump,” said Cantwell. “Phasing in vehicles that can run on fuels other than petroleum will allow a whole host of new domestic sources of transportation fuel to come online, which should reduce our dangerous overdependence on foreign oil and help keep American dollars here at home. I am encouraged by the broad bipartisan and stakeholder support for the Open Fuels Standard Act which I believe is a recognition that this approach will really help diversify our nation’s energy supply and spur investment and job creation.”

The Open Fuels Standard Act requires that starting in 2015, 50 percent of new vehicles manufactured or sold in the United States be flex fuel capable – meaning able to run on non-petroleum fuels such as domestically-produced ethanol or methanol or other alcohols in addition to, or instead of, petroleum-based fuels. In 2018, 80 percent of new vehicles would need to be flex fuel capable.

Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis said the legislation would help open the market, so that Americans have access to alternative fuels, like ethanol. “If we are ever going to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and allow consumers a fuel choice, we will need an open market. An open market will drive the investment into cellulosic ethanol and other biofuels,” said Buis.

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