Researcher Explores Mesquite-to-Ethanol
Chrysler to Offer First Mid-Size Sedan Diesel with 2007 Sebring; Only Outside of North America

EPA Issues Final Boutique Fuels Report

Map of federal and boutique fuel requirements in the US, as of May 2006. Click to enlarge. Source: ExxonMobil

The US Environmental Protection Agency today released its Boutique Fuels Task Force report. In response to high fuel prices, President Bush in April had directed the EPA to increase cooperation among the states on fuel supply decisions and to analyze the impacts of boutique fuels, or fuel blends, used by states to help meet clean air standards. (Earlier post.) The Task Force report represents one step in complying with that directive.

Although the report determined that boutique fuels continue to pose a challenge to the movement of fuel when supply disruptions occur, it did not reach a final conclusion regarding the effect of boutique fuels on the price of gasoline.

Fuel composition and quality are proven and effective measures for emissions reductions. In general, the federal Clean Air Act sets the standards for gasoline—there are six different kinds of fuels (RFG and low RVP) in the federal programs. However, areas having a proven air quality need can adopt unique clean fuel requirements to address those special needs or non-attainment classifications.

Boutique fuels are the specialized blends produced for a specific state or area of the country to meet those specific state and local air quality requirements. Roughly 15 states have adopted their own clean fuel programs for part or all of the state. These state fuel programs make up nine different kinds of fuels.

EPA is required by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to cap the number of boutique fuels permitted for use and place additional restrictions on the growth of such fuels. Today’s task force report called for conducting additional analysis of any action to further limit a state’s ability to adopt boutique fuels. In addition, EPA will conduct a more comprehensive review in the coming months examining boutique fuels and other factors that affect the fuel supply and distribution system.

The report’s major observations and recommendations include:

  • Boutique fuels continue to pose a challenge to the movement of fuel when supply disruptions occur. Natural events, like hurricanes, as well as refinery and pipeline breakdowns can cause such disruptions. EPA needed to waive fuel requirements over 30 times in 2005 alone.

  • State fuel programs have clearly provided significant, cost-effective air quality improvements. Any actions to modify the slate of existing boutique fuels or limit a state’s ability to adopt fuel specifications should be done in a manner that at least maintains these air quality gains and avoids unnecessarily restricting state authority.

  • EPA will continue to implement expeditiously the requirements of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct) as they relate to boutique fuels. These actions will limit the growth of new boutique fuel requirements.

  • Future analysis of potential changes to the number and types of fuels must utilize the most up-to-date data and analytical tools. The 2008 EPA/DOE Fuel System Requirements Harmonization Study should ensure that all aspects, including impacts changes to fuel requirements may have on air quality, as well as the new generation of vehicles, fuel fungibility, supply and cost, are appropriately addressed.

  • As part of the analyses of future fuel options, careful consideration should be given to the possibility of new legislative authority which would allow for the adoption of regional clean fuel programs. Cleaner burning fuels used in the broader geographic areas merit further study as an additional option for addressing fuel supply and fungibility concerns.

  • Renewable fuels are an important part of the nation’s plan to reduce its dependence on foreign oil. States are undertaking a number of actions to promote the use of such fuels and the federal government is implementing programs, notably the Renewable Fuels Program established by EPAct, to do the same. It will be beneficial to undertake additional study to ensure these programs are working together and will not create undue impacts on air quality, fuel fungibility, supply and cost considerations.




Of course, the EPA could reduce the number of botique fuels by increasing the minimum standards to eclipse some of the botique fuels, thereby rendering them obsolete.

Additionally, the "weaker" botique fuel locations could upgrade their standards to a "stronger" botique standard, thereby reducing the number of different botique fuels.

But, what am I thinking? Bush's EPA has been working hard to weaken standards throughout the land, not strengthen them. Disagree, and you're fired.

allen zheng

You could make the argument to business republicans of simplifying/reducing regulations and they might go along with it. One or a few types of standards would simplify the market, thus bring logistical benefits.

Rafael Seidl

Boutique fuels are actually a horrible misnomer. Far from a luxury, these fuel grades feature (expensive) extra additives required to meet air quality standards in certain counties of certain states.

The best-known additives are oxygenates, which are used to increase Reid vapor pressure in summer. This reduces evaporative HC emissions, especially those from older vehicles parked in the baking sun. HC + O2 + sunlight yield CO2 + H20 + O3. Ozone oxidizes the innocuous NO (also from cars) to the brownish NO2 you see hanging in the air in LA and the SF Bay Area. Less HC evaporation means less smog.

EPA recently withdraw its requirement (and therefore legal protection) for the oxygenate MTBE, because it was found to be a carcinogen and had leaked into the ground water near several CA filling stations with corroded single-hull storage tanks. Considering the amount needed (~5-10%), the only currently available alternative in bulk is corn ethanol. This does not work quite as well as MTBE and is strongly hygroscopic, so it cannot be transported in pipelines. Fuel blenders in LA get their ethanol from the Midwest by rail and truck, which makes folks in Iowa happy and refiners in CA unhappy (lost revenue).

If you wanted to eliminate boutique fuels, you would either have to lower air quality standards in sensitive places like LA and NY. Presumably, this is what Bush would prefer to see happen as it maximizes the profits of the oil industry (contributors to Republican campaigns). Consumers everywhere would pay the same or less at the pump.

The altenative, as suggested by Allen, would be to force the entire country to switch to highly oxygenated fuel. Since there would not be enough domestic ethanol to meet demand, you'd have to import the stuff from e.g. Brazil. The extra cost of this raw material would far outweigh any logistical benefits from simplification. Plus, you'd need about 1% more fuel in total because ethanol's energy density is fairly low. Ergo, Republican voters in red states would suddenly find themselves paying 30-50 cents per gallon more at the pump. I suspect that is not what the Presidient has in mind just ahead of an election.

Stan Peterson

I find it absolutely amazing that some of you are conspiracy freaks. Other wise sane and level headed and able to carry on a rational discussion, when suddenly you descend into mindless insane political ravings.

Republicans stated the environmental movement; they created the first national parks. They created the EPA; and started us on the way to clean environment.
The USA has the best record in reducing CO2 emissions of any developed country except socialist France and the French use (gasp!) wide spread nuclear power!

We didn't sign Kyoto, because both Republicans and Democrats won't vote for it; but we comply better than any of the others. Republicans created the Bureau of Reclamation and built the great hydro projects on the Colorado and Columbia rivers that generate clean electricity from falling water. Have you completely forgotten Hoover damn?

The dirty, filthy environments created by Marxist politicians have still never been cleaned up. Irresponsible plant construction because the officials in charge were chosen on there basis of their political reliability more than their competence. Who burned down Yellowstone Park? It was the government under Clinton. Who screwed up the international consortium to build the ITER fusion power experiment? it was the Clintonians and the windmill lovers and alcohol makers who wanted the dollars directed at their subsidies. Who reconstructed the international consortia to jointly research clean fusion energy why Bush and his polluting buddies that's who.

neither party has the entire reserve of "greenness" Most extreme greenies were reds who needed a place to go after their gods collapsed in 89. Americans of all persuasions have cleaned the environment yesterday, today and tomorrow. Clinton left a cleaner US then what he had when he started office ...and so did Nixon, Gasp! and Ford gasp! and Carter, and Reagan Gasp! gasp!And elder Bush Gasp! and Clinton, and even Dubya will leave office with the environment in the USA cleaner than what he inherited. His successor will do so as well, be he a Democrat or Republican.

Why don't you guys grow up?


Feeling better now Stan? :)

P.S. if Dubya did anything for the environment it was to export all of your manufacturing to China and Mexico. That cleaned up all those dirty ol stacks.

hampden wireless

Stan wrote:
and even Dubya will leave office with the environment in the USA cleaner than what he inherited

Hmmmm... Very unlikly. Dubya will more then probobly be the first Pres in years to go backwards on the enviroment. More coal burning, more gas burning, relaxed standards all around. Not to mention any talk about how much more co2 we are releasing.

Republicans did start the EPA and then almost always appoint anti-enviromentalists to head it. Now thats progress!


This is THE reason so many in industry back h2. H2 is just h2 and all the annoying festering butt monkies of politics cant mess with that. Who knows what mess will come with biofuels and blah blah blah but h2 is JUST h2.

allen zheng

The thing is that with a larger economy, we need more energy, for transport, for work. All those server farms don't just sit there without consuming Megawatts of juice each. Nukes were uncertain to renew their operating licenses, and gas/oil got expensive. Thus coal has a boom. The point now is to move from fossil solar to direct/indirect solar. Hydro, biomass (indirect), photoelectric (direct), etc, that is the sustainable long term way to go.
____By the way, a few means conventional gasoline with as few tiers of other types of gas blends as possible to meet demand, and work within supply/environmental constraints. This would have a total of perhaps 4 types of gasoline (conventional included), not 14.

Rafael Seidl

Wintermane -

the idea that politicians would stay out of a hydrogen economy strikes me as a little naive. True, fuel composition would no longer be an issue, but fuel production, distribution infrastructure, in-vehicle tanks etc. all would be. There is simply way too much money (read: legitimate economic interests as well as potential campaign contributions) in the energy sector for pols to stay out of the fray.


Yes on the end but ti would make things alot easyer for them.


Stan wrote: "Republicans stated the environmental movement; they created the first national parks. They created the EPA; and started us on the way to clean environment."

Yes, they also freed the slaves, started landgrant universities and built the transcontinental railway. But that was then. These guys that call themselves Republicans now are more interested in lining their own pockets and those of their rich, corporate friends. They have no concern for the citizens, people or the world -- only power and money. They are not Republicans, as I used to know them I know I am a Republican. As for other parties, etc., it is the same stuff -- As Lord Acton said, "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." No one has a lock on it.


That's all great. But what do slaves, landgrant universities, or stupid political fights have to do with green cars?



"Who burned down Yellowstone Park? It was the government under Clinton."

I assume you are referring to the famous Yellowstone fires of 1988. That would be well before Clinton, but of course it is INSANE to blame a forest fire on any President. And, yellowstone did not burn down, about 1/3 of the park was burned. I was there in 1990 and the natural recovery was evident.

Love the way some people want to say, "well, something bad happened while so-and-so was President so it's all his fault". Grow up.

John Ard

If anyone wants to point fingers about why our government doesn't work they should land on the voters. Most voters are uninformed or don't care so we continually re-elect the same career politicians. If Americans would care about their government and vote out those who are corrupted by their power we wouldn't have as much of a problem. At least that's what I think out here in rural Alabama.


I am a big fan of public money for public office. If you have enough public money to offset the private money, then the politicians might be more likey to do something for the people that put them there..the tax payers.

The comments to this entry are closed.