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Open Fuel Standard Act Introduced in US Congress; 50% FFVs by 2012, 80% by 2015

A tri-partisan bill principally sponsored by Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS), Ken Salazar (D-CO) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) (S.3303) and Representatives Eliot Engel (D-NY-17), Jack Kingston (R-GA-1), Steve Israel (D-NY-2), and Bob Inglis (R-SC-4) (H.R.6559) would require that starting in 2012, 50% of new automobiles; and starting in 2015, 80% of new automobiles, be flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) that can operate with gasoline blends up to E85 (85%) ethanol or M85 (85% methanol), or be warranted to operate on biodiesel.

The alternative fuels can be made from a variety of sources, including switchgrass and other energy crops, coal, agricultural bi-products, corn, soybeans, natural gas and other materials.

The Methanol Institute, the trade association for the methanol industry, rapidly endorsed the bills.

In the 1980s and 1990s, more than 20,000 methanol (M-85) FFVs were introduced. For the week ending 4 July methanol wholesale spot prices were $1.32 per gallon. Adding distribution costs, state and federal taxes, and retailer markup still leaves a pump price of $1.70 per gallon. After accounting for methanol’s lower energy content than gasoline, the effective price for the consumer filling up with methanol is just $2.22 per gallon.

This year, the US will consume more than 2.2 billion gallons of methanol largely for chemical commodities markets, according to the Methanol Institute. On a global basis, methanol consumption is roughly 13 billion gallons per year, equivalent to the global supply of fuel ethanol.  Most methanol is currently produced from natural gas, with much of the US supply coming from Trinidad.



John Taylor

"starting in 2015, 80% of new automobiles, be E85 (85% ethanol) or M85 (85% methanol), or biodiesel"

This sort of shuts the door on Battery Electric Vehicles.
The USA keeps finding new ways to shoot itself in the foot and end it's own future as a competitive country.

In 20 years, the world will be running on wind and sunlight, while the USA is using food for fuel.
Enjoy the future where you get to starve as you freeze in the dark.



If your interpretation is correct, one may wonder where USA is heading to.

Are farmers' votes that predominant? I hope that the intention is NOT to feed 85% of our gas guzzlers with agro-fuels. If so, food prices will go much higher and many may have to choose between food for their stomach and agro-fuel for their gas guzzler. In many cases, this may become a sort of self-imposed diet and may get rid of the extra accumulated unwanted weight.

Is this part of the reason why Toyota's sales surpass GM's for the second quarter in a row.


This bill is a terrible idea. I hope it goes done in renewable flames.


I think it's a very positive proposal -- it could cut dependence on Arab oil, and there is no reason why this wasn't done earlier. I wonly wish I could fill my car with E85 now. And a hybrid model that could be fueled by alternative fuels sounds like a well-rounded, good idea to me.

And as for starving to death, that is just total, absolute bullsh-t. People don't eat the horse corn used for ethanol. They eat sweet corn, which only constiitutes a small percent of annual crops anyway. And guess what, there is more to eat in this world than corn! And frankly, this world could do with a bit less high fructose fat ass diabetes triggering corn syrup anyway.

Methanol is made from wood anyway. I'm glad they didn't forget biodiesel in this bill.


These senators and representative create bills in their capital hill offices without looking what's happening outside. It really amaze me we are still talking about E85, M85 or biodiesel fueled vehicles in 2015. BEV and PHEV will be the truely flexible fuel vehicles, as the electricity will then be generated using natural gas, wind , solar, biomass as well as coal with advanced carbon capture and sequestration technology.

Roger Pham

Methanol can be easily made from agricultural waste, trash and sewage, natural gas, and coal, and thus can serve as a stopgap until the H2 economy is fully implemented. However, methanol is corrosive and very toxic, and ingestion of as little as 10 ml can kill a person. Methanol has little smell and little taste as a concentration of 10ml/liter (1%) and can be a real threat if methanol is going to be fully implemented as automotive fuel. Just imagine a leakage of this in the water supply!

I think the same objective can be achieved using NG and bio-methane since NG is non-corrosive and non-toxic. T Boone Pickens has it right!

H2 and Battery electricity from renewable sources will be the final step, but may be quite a while in the future before full implementation.


They got Lieberman, who conveniently converted to Independent, to make it look like such a solidly supported bill. The only 'farmers' pushing the bill are the agro-businesses that jumped totally into bio-fuels & who don't have the farmer traditional philosophy to feed people.

These Senators & representatives get the vote of people & then feed engines(big time), while taking food away from the 'lower echelon' of the represented electorate.

They are just the poor anyway...& forget the Gulf Coast 'dead zone'.

stas peterson

Would you like to make a wager that wind and sunlight will not power even 5% of our needs?

It simply can't happen. Where would you put the 4,000,000 windmill towers needed? How would you get the approved EIS to kill every blessed creature in 6 or more states of the Union and make extinct innumerable species to find the every square foot of land you need for your arrays.

Sorry despite your political Will, as a past leader used to spout, these technologies just do not scale.

You might as well try to drain the Oceans with a toddlers toy Beach bucket.

I welcome all the windmills and solar arrays that you can build and then put aside the toys and address real needs and methods.


This is good. The cost is truly minimal and if someone comes up with a miracle in cellulosic ethanol or trash-to-methanol or something our cars will be ready. Of course such a miracle is a long shot, this is no substitute for raising CAFE and moving to electric drivetrains.


This feels too soon. We don't even know which fuel type will be the dominant one. It might be Ethanol, but new candidates can always pop up. A straight push to burn food to run cars turned out to be a bad idea. Improved efficiency has to be in the mix in order to not shoot us in the foot like we did with corn Ethanol.

tom deplume

That is the beauty of flex-fuel vehicles. We don't need to know what fuel will be most abundant in advance. FFVs will run on whatever is available from day to day.


Techincally a bev is a flex fual vehicle as it runs on ac and dc.... sorry couldnt resist... But you should look up the classification of flex fuel you may find out all bevs and fuel cell cars are already classes as flex fuel.


How did you arrive at the 4,000,000 windmill towers needed number?


DOE's 20% electricity from wind power by 2030.

Some highlights
· Annual installations need to increase more than threefold. Achieving 20% wind will require the number of annual turbine installations to increase from approximately 2000 in 2006 to almost 7000 in 2017.

· Costs of integrating intermittent wind power into the grid are modest. 20% wind can be reliably integrated into the grid for less than 0.5 cents per kWh.

The wind potential of just 2 states (north & s dakota) is enough to power the US but of course the turbines can be put up in many other places which have similar profiles.

Anything of Stan's is pretty much biased from biased sources. He likes trying reductio ad absurdum arguements which only shows how biased he is, since he obviously can't be bothered by really looking into things.

@Spector. It just isn't just about corn. Industrial corn gets fed to everything. It gets processed and is used as feedstocks to a lot of foods. High fructose corn syrup is used in every commercial drink and in a lot of foods. It effects the commodities of other foods through simple substitution. It effects production considerations as more land gets devoted to it. It is and was a complex question.

P Schager

The link to the bill text didn't work for me, but I found it here:

And it really does literally put a 2015 cap of 20% of the car production on the sum of BEV's, NGV's, FCV's, (bio)propane cars and whatever else will come along by then. The defect is to define a "fuel choice-enabling vehicle" as one that works with alcohol or biodiesel only. As if there were no other important alternatives vying and no other biofuels coming down the pike. They should be called Gen(eration) 1 altfuel-enabled vehicles, and the targets changed to 80% of gasoline or diesel ICE cars only. Ms. Collins and the guys were asleep at the wheel when they approved this.

What I think happened was that the alcohol fuel lobbyists reckoned they'd need additional support to get this to pass, which would come from Congressmen doing the bidding of secretly-snickering petroleum interests. This is altfuel politics today: you have the biofuels teaming up with oil to battle the EV's, who are trying to team up with oil. Surprise, surprise, the only one left standing is always oil.

Since the tweaks to cars to accommodate this bill's fuels are slight, mostly engineering or "boutique part" costs, the principle is a good one. But besides the defect already mentioned, the bill
(1) doesn't acknowledge that alcohol fuels and biodiesel are just two of the answers to be arrayed against the problems it describes,
(2) needs a smoother rollout with an earlier start and more convincing incentives so that a parallel rollout of fuel stations is a safe investment,
(3) needs to put federal resources into developing aftertreatment systems optimized for alcohol fuels, so automakers won't get uptight about the program over this,
(4) needs to address the need for high-compression SI engines to help with the bad reputation for efficiency alcohol fuels have because they're introduced in FFV's handicapped by the (low-octane) gasoline-compatibility burden,
(5) should also press for compatibility with alcohol fuel with a few percent water in it to make production efficiency and handling easier, like Brazil does, and
(6) needs to immediately remove the CAFE gimmicks now used to promote E85 cars, which have made alcohol fuels a cussword for so many environmentalists.

Hospitals can now treat methanol poisoning, but the required labeling should make sure the user knows he would need prompt treatment. For animals, M85 has a great odorant, bitterant and emetic additive: gasoline.

A smart alcohol fuels program would start a dense network of stations in planned early-adopter regions first, allowing dedicated (high-compression) cars to find a comfortable niche. Also, we need to stop waiting for the promised cellulosic ethanol, whose patents can be bought up by those who would string us along for years, and plant the country green now to make low-tech cellulosic fuels like methanol to fuel our PHEV's.


To P Shager - Thanks for your review and opinion on the bill. I really like that you put some thought into your post. I'll take a look as well.


To P Schager - You are right, what a terrible bill! This bill makes NO considerations BEVs, NGVs, FCVs! Ugh. Typical US politicians...

They could revise the bill to include those alternative energy vehicles, but rather I think than naming what the alternative are (result in limitations), I think they instead should specify that [50% in 2012-14 then 80% in 2015 and after] of vehicles that run on gasoline must be able to run on another type of fuel that is 15% or less gasoline or diesel in content. That opens the door to all alternatives, right?


Discuss Energy Environment Issues :
Energy Environment Forum
It will be great to have you there !


This is not brain surgery guys.
Ethanol beats everything in time to market.
It takes 178 days to grow a ethanol crop such as cattails.
BTW Cellulose ethanol is here now and in use.
Solar and Nuclear take to long.
Why wait for the automakers? For $300 you can convert any post 1985 car to ethanol. Tax oil imports to pay for it!
Learn here
Brazil had the balls to try. It worked amazing.
Ethanol now!


so many ideas here. interesting.

the primary danger of this bill is it may cause us to use our food for fuel. corn growers everywhere have the silly little idea that their food can make a good fuel if the government just pays them to grow it, process it, and transport it -- hell, even sell it. i'm sure congress wouldn't have a problem with this as long as their pockets get stuffed. however, i've made biodesiel. pretty tough, but once you get it going it tends to get a lot easier.

john taylor:
the world can't run on sunlight and wind. just not possible. cover the land, rivers, lakes, oceans, seas with the highest rated solar pv cells four times over and you could be right (could be... the demand is always growing). wind is unreliable, you would need to perfect energy storage in 20 years and then build enough wind turbines to stop a hurricane to power our planets needs.
fact is, fossil fuels will be with us for a long time.

only 10% of our oil comes from the middle east.
however, the middle east holds the FUTURE of oil as the rest of the world finds that the drill goes too low and the bill goes too high.

roger pham:
t boone is nuts. natural gas is a poor source of mobile fuel. compress it down all you want, but 1 cubic foot of natural gas at STP (standard temp & press) has 1000 BTU, the equivalent of a match head. think of how large a cubic foot is and how much energy you can get from 1000 match heads.

the future is powered by negawatts. the present won't last. we need to learn to get the most out of our energy (currently of the coal, oil, and gas we burn we get about 1/4 of the energy. yes, i believe in the laws of thermodynamics, but still. 1/4?) and we need to become accustomed to relying on less energy and wasting less energy.

i think the language of the bill can be adapted easily. simply remark that the car is powered by pistons or whatever terminology you must, but it should be clear that we are talking about cars that you POUR fuel into.


for compressed NG, i think the ratio was 2gallonspetrol:133poundscompressedng


also, i noticed that the bill put almost no restriction on commercial vehicles. why not?

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