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New Senate Bills for Low-Carbon Advanced Fuel and Fuel Economy

US Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, introduced a bill (S.1297) increasing the volume of low-carbon and advanced renewable fuels to as much as 35 billion gallons by 2025.

Separately, Senators Daniel Inouye (D-HI) and Ted Stevens (R-AK), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce Science and Transportation Committee, released compromise legislation that would establish a nationwide new vehicle fleet fuel economy average of 35 mpg by 2020 for passenger cars and light-duty trucks—about 40% higher than the current average of about 25 mpg.

Under Senator Boxer’s bill, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required to increase the Renewable Fuels Standard from 12 billion gallons in 2011 to as much as 35 billion gallons by 2025. To count towards the Renewable Fuels Standard, however, fuel must be at least 20% better than gasoline in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition, the Renewable Fuels Standard would require increasing volumes of fuels that are at least 50% and 75% better than gasoline in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. EPA would be required to establish an Advanced Clean Fuel Performance Standard that gradually reduces greenhouse gas emissions from the entire transportation fuel supply by as much as 10% of 2008 levels by 2020.

Additional aspects of the bill include:

  • The National Academy of Sciences would periodically study the environmental and other impacts, and the energy independence implications, of increasing the amount of advanced clean fuels in the transportation fuel supply.

  • The bill would establish a green renewable fuel labeling program modeled on Energy Star to spotlight renewable fuels that result in 50% lower greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline and that are produced using best environmental management practices.

  • The bill promotes the use of the most suitable lands for clean fuels development.

Following the 35 mpg standard in 2020, the Inouye-Stevens bill proposes ongoing improvements of 4% per year in fuel economy for cars and trucks. The bill proposes fuel economy improvements of 4% per year for medium- and heavy-duty trucks beginning in 2011. The Department of Transportation would have flexibility to adjust the standards if industry could not meet the rules.

The proposal would also eliminate the current flex-fuel credit for automakers by 2009.



I wonder if these standards take into account the lower energy content of biofuels. Otherwise, it is a sham.


Its very possible to get 35mpg on bio fuels.
I did a tank of E85 in my 07 prius and the average was 35mpg. This may be why it was written this way as thats what todays technology sits.


I watched the hearing last night on CSPAN (here in USA) and Boxer's bill would actually create tiered size/weight based standards that would each have their own fuel efficiency standard. Thus, GM, with a higher percentage of heavy-load vehicles would have to meet goals related to that size of vehicles.

This is a marked improvement over the current assessment of CAFE that measures across an OEM's entire fleet.

Also, the 35 mpg standard would be a national standard across the entire country for all new cars across all manufacturers and the agency responsible for setting the tiered benchmarks would have the ability to adjust the rankings to hit that national target.

But I agree with Senator Levin from Michigan who stressed that the best way to ween ourselves off of foreign oil and clear the air would be to encourage work on leap-frog technologies, like fuel-cell, plug-in hybrids, and advanced diesels.

Mark R. W. Jr.

I praise the effort. But why 35 MPG? Why not 40 or 45 MPG for passenger cars and SUVs?


I'm not talking about mpg; I am talking about the ability to cut greenhouses gases by 20%. If you cut greenhouses gases by 20%, but your fuel penalty is greater than 20%, then you haven't gained anything.

Btw, didn't you have to modify the Prius prior to using the E85. And why would you want to use E85 in your Prius, anyway?


The bill addressing mpg is Inoye's bill, not Boxer's.

Kerry Buehrt

I guess it was inevitable that a member of the new majority party would make some meaningless proposal for a future that will never exist. Anyone making biofuel plans for 2025 needs to have their head examined. We all know what happened to the plans for ethanol. If there are biofuel vehicles on this planet in 2025, I will be VERY surprised, and planning for them leads me to believe that Boxer hasn't a clue as to which direction auto technology is moving. I'll give her a hint : "It ain't moving towards biofuel, which would simply be a continuation of a very inefficient way of powering out cars." Maybe we better send GM VP Bob Lutz to Capital Hill to let everyone know that the future car is electric. We are in a mostly electron economy that will become an all electron economy. Boxer
is out of her league, quite obviously. Boxer's skills with respect to autos probably begin and end with choices of interior color schemes and seat fabric selection. I thought everybody knew that the future of
cars was electric. Apparently not. Unfortunately, they dseem to be in Congress making silly and irrelevant
proclamations about a future that'll never come to pass.


I really don't see how anybody here can say "The future of cars is X". There are too many uncertainties in the marketplace to make any accurate predictions. We all have technologies we'd love to see deployed--algae-based biofuels, nanotech-based batteries, etc.--but I don't think I know enough to predict which technologies will win out.

Personally I'll take an algae-based biodiesel or biobutanol PHEV that gets 100 mpg. But that's just me.


I heard Carl Levin's comments. Being the senator from Michigan, you would expect him to be against CAFE. He said that with modern technology, better results can be had without a CAFE mandate. That may be, but they have not done it so far.

I hope that they take their time and craft a good law that everyone can live with and that has the desired outcomes with the fewest side effects.

The senior senator from California outlined the 4% per year improvement in mileage that would result. We all know that you can not continue to improve mileage indefinitely, but we need to do better and maybe this is one way.


Well of course hes against cafe. He and many others know exactly how gm and ford plan to meet high cafe and that isnt good for his state at all. No large change can be had without serious fallout. We have to face the dact it will cost us alot to get there not just in cost of the car.


CAFE of any kind is just plain stupid. The real definition of CAFE is: "We politicians are total invertebrates and don't have the intestinal fortitude to tax gasoline, so instead we are going to make you buy cars you don't want, or make cars you might actually want so expensive you can't afford them." The only thing dumber than CAFE was the absolutely clueless Euro-Pols displacement tax. It would take someone even dimmer than Barbara Check-Bouncer to come up with that regulatory scheme.

Or maybe a 35 or 45 MPG CAFE will accomplish exactly what the POLS want. Force us to use inconvenient, mass transit with the human disasters. The only mass transit I use is the rental car shuttle bus at the airport, and that's bad enough.

As for biofuels, let the market and VC take care of that. If Barb Bouncer really cared about global warming, she would be ramming a fast track bill though to build hundreds of Nuke plants over the next 20 years to provide the US with base load electricity instead of Coal. Ms. Check-Bouncer bragged recently she owned three Prius' (Prii?), one at each of her three homes, which she probably accessed by private jet.


Japanese car manufacturers stick to voluntary power cap for domestically sold cars, at 200 KW max, just to curb unnecessary hp wars. Apparently, Australian tuners happily double power output of Japanese gray import of muscle cars without much troubles. Such voluntary restrictions would be beneficial for US and German companies too. But I do not hold my breath.

Rafael Seidl

"In addition, the Renewable Fuels Standard would require increasing volumes of fuels that are at least 50% and 75% better than gasoline in terms of greenhouse gas emissions."

If climate change mitigation is the objective, fuels must be compared on a well-to-wheels basis. None of the renewable fuels available can reduce CO2 emissions by a factor 3-4 over gasoline, except hydrogen produced via electrolysis. That is only renewable if the electricity is produced in solar, wind and/or hydroelectric plants, all of which are very expensive.

The best way to really make a dent in CO2 emissions from the transportation sector is to improve fuel economy by reducing vehicle size and weight. In addition, urban architects and traffic planners need to focus their efforts over the next 30-50 years on reducing the number of miles that must be traveled by car: higher building density, dedicated infrastructure for (electric) bicyles, more light rail/subways are all good starting points.

@tom -

you're right, comparing different fuels on a volumetric basis (e.g. MPG) is moronic. It needs to be based on gravimetric SFC instead.



I run E85 in a prius on occasion to prove a point. E85 is not a perfect fuel by any means but it is an alternative to a growing industry that is going to have to start using cellulose. Until I can buy a PHEV my options for "alternatives" for gasoline are limmited

As with many things there is good information and bad information out there.
Running E85 was a test to show that when people start making claims about how ethanol is impossible or a bad idea etc that there is some hope and as well for my own curiosity.
Running E85 did not cause any of the problems that many people "reported"
No check engine lights came on.
Besides a drop in millage(expected) and a noticeable power increase thats all there was as far as a change.
Normaly the car gets 48 to 54mpg
With E85 I was guessing about 35 and it came to 35mpg
The prius has a few advantages when it comes to useing E85
first being that the fuel is pre warmed for better combustion efficency
second being the engine has a compression ratio of 13:1
third the gas tank has a bladder to keep the stuff from evaporating
forth the electric engine spins up the ICE to about 1500 rpm for better efficiency before it dumps in fuel so there are no "hard starts"
This is all with NO modification
Also with no modification E85 ran just fine in a 1990 Jeep cherokee apx 12mpg
a 1995 jeep cherokee also 12mpg
a 1888 ford festiva 28mpg
a 1978 corvette (some modifications) about 8mpg

The thing that does sicken me about e85 is that most FFVs out there are only gas guzzlers and SUVs and not small passenger cars, I guess its good for demand though.

In any case it does prove that more efficient design does make a difference and a lot of the technologies that are needed to do it are here today and can only improve.
Government intervention and forcing efficiency on the public is the only way things are going to change for the better.


Since ethanol has less energy than gasoline, to what do you attribute the 'noticeable power increase"?

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