Higher octane can help automakers and consumers too

Last year we urged the Environmental Protection Agency to consider fuels as part of the pathway to meet the U.S. fuel economy standards.

We staked out our position within the Midterm Evaluation of standards set for vehicles to be sold during model years (MY) 2022 to 2025. The evaluation required that the government decide by spring 2018 whether the U.S. is on track to meet the future standards.

However, the Obama administration prematurely ended this assessment in January. Now the process has been reopened by the current administration on its original timeline, giving all stakeholders a new opportunity to weigh in, and the agency more time to fully consider all information.

When it solicited public comments this time, EPA specifically asked for more feedback on higher-octane fuels and the role they could play in improving fuel economy.

We’ve remained consistent in our position that high-octane fuels can provide numerous benefits, including improving mileage, which saves drivers money compared with other options. A higher octane rating for fuel at the pump can also reduce emissions that create smog and harm the environment. Read our post on the importance of octane as a property of fuel.

“Better fuels will not only facilitate cost‐effective compliance with the 2022‐2025 standards and facilitate continued progress beyond 2025, but will also ensure that consumers continue to have affordable vehicle options that meet their needs,” we wrote. Read our complete comments here.

This process gives the public voice. That’s where you come in. It is too important to remain on the sidelines. An easy way to stay up to date is to bookmark our Policy Cafe page. Share that information with friends and family.

Currently, auto companies receive credits for making all manner of fuel-efficient technologies. Electric vehicles (EVs) get a particularly enticing credit, provided they’re sold off the lot. But EVs still come at a high vehicle cost, which is prohibitive for many drivers. We hope that changes. For now, government policies need to be realistic in what consumers want to drive and can afford.

To ensure continued progress, the standards must continue to accommodate the entire range of consumer preferences and budgets: those who need trucks and SUVs, as well as those who like and can afford sophisticated technologies like EVs.

Increasing the octane rating of fuel (usually the minimum you see at the station is 87), combined with the development of high-compression engine technology, could “provide a low-cost pathway” to achieve higher fuel economy, according to a 2015 study by the National Academy of Sciences. Ethanol, a high-octane booster, could play an increased role in that low-cost pathway.

“While octane can come from the refinery, ethanol is currently the cheapest and cleanest source of high octane,” our comments say.

Those economic gains aren’t limited to cheaper prices at the pump, either. As our comments illustrate, better fuel economy means we use less petroleum, which reduces oil imports. It also means greater demand for U.S.-produced fuels, creating jobs right here at home.

“We think that EPA can and should take measures to advance the cause of octane, diversify our fuel supply, and pave the way for continued progress in fuel economy, which saves consumers money, because more miles per gallon means more miles per dollar spent at the fuel pump. Everyone wins with that,” said Fuel Freedom’s Vice President of Policy and the Environment, Robin Vercruse.

What happens next? The fuel economy standards are intended as a blueprint for the future, giving automakers, suppliers, and other interested parties time to plan ahead. This process takes time. If the agencies determine we’re not on track to hit those targets for MY2022 to 2025, the clock begins again while new standards are crafted.

When the time comes, we’ll call on you to mobilize and make your voice heard. If you care about air quality, national security, saving money, creating jobs, or protecting the environment — or if you simply want to ensure the market has competition to keep fuel prices low — this is the issue for you.


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