July 31, 2023
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Last week, U.S. Senator Pete Ricketts (R-NE) introduced the Flex Fuel Fairness Act with Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) to level the playing field for vehicles running on low-carbon liquid fuels like ethanol.
“The Biden EPA has made a mistake and ignored the proven benefits of flex fuel vehicles that can run higher ethanol blends,” said Senator Ricketts. “Our bill levels the playing field for a proven Nebraska alternative to expensive and burdensome electric vehicles. Nebraskans know biofuels like ethanol are a proven solution that lowers prices for consumers at the pump, is great for our farmers and ranchers, and reduces our dependence on foreign oil.”
“We thank Senators Ricketts and Klobuchar 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 Renewable Fuels Association’s 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 bill would provide a meaningful incentive for automakers to manufacture flex fuel vehicles (FFVs) in addition to battery electric vehicles (EVs). Currently, the Biden administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has prioritized regulations that favor dramatically increasing production of EVs and forcing them on consumers. The Flex Fuel Fairness Act would equally encourage the production of FFVs, offer more options to consumers, and unlock increased use of lower-carbon liquid fuel blends containing higher levels of ethanol, like E85 and E30.
Ricketts is committed to bringing proven Nebraska solutions that are ready for America to the U.S. Senate. The Flex Fuel Fairness Act Ricketts introduced with Klobuchar is the second in a series of bills to do just that.
Bill text will be available here.
The EPA recently proposed tailpipe CO2 emissions standards for 2027-2032 light-duty vehicles that would require up to two-thirds of cars and trucks in the U.S. to be electric in just eight years and threaten the availability of gas-powered vehicles necessary in agriculture and less densely populated areas like Nebraska. Senator Ricketts called these requirements “detached-from-reality”, saying they would “have a disastrous impact on the wellbeing of American families, American drivers, and American businesses.”
The new emissions standards require automakers to meet certain tailpipe CO2 emissions values, on average, across their fleet of new vehicles. The EPA’s proposed approach for EVs (i.e., using a value of 0 grams/mile) assumes every EV produced by automakers will only use zero-carbon renewable electricity. However, the EPA’s proposed approach ignores the significant CO2 emissions associated with critical mineral extraction, EV battery production, and the production and transmission of electricity used to recharge EV batteries.
Meanwhile, the EPA’s proposal does not recognize or account for the meaningful CO2 emissions savings that can be achieved through expanding biofuels use in vehicles designed to accommodate higher blends, including flex fuel vehicles.
For the purposes of determining CO2 tailpipe emissions compliance performance values, flex fuel vehicles (FFVs) capable of operating on E85 should be assumed to operate on E85 all of the time, just as EVs are assumed to operate on zero-carbon electricity all of the time. Automakers who manufacture FFVs should be allowed to use a compliance tailpipe CO2 emissions value that reflects the lifecycle CO2 savings from using E85. The Flex Fuel Fairness Act would ensure that, for purposes of determining fleet average CO2 standards, manufacturers may use a gram per mile CO2 value for FFVs that is 31% lower than the gram per mile CO2 value or the same vehicle model that is not a flexible fuel vehicle.
Ricketts long championed the use of biofuels like ethanol when he was governor and has continued that work in the U.S. Senate. Ricketts has co-sponsored the Consumer Fuel and Retailer Choice Act, which would allow for year-round E15. Ricketts also frequently touts the benefits of ethanol and other renewable fuels as a member of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, which oversees the EPA. During Renewable Fuels Month in May, Ricketts’ Weekly Column made the case for why ethanol was a proven home-grown solution that is a win for everyone.
The Flex Fuel Fairness Act is the second piece of legislation in Ricketts’ “Proven Nebraska Solutions Ready for America” package. Details on the first bill, the SNAP Next Step Act, are available here.
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