Driving Choice

Open Fuel Standard Act aims to diversify fuel availability at the pump
By Bryan Sims | June 14, 2011

Diesel prices show no signs of going down, but a new bipartisan bill introduced by Congressmen John Shimkus, R-Ill., Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., and Steve Israel, D-N.Y., aims to change that in three years by offering more fuels at the pump come 2014. Coined the Open Fuel Standard Act (HR 1687), the proposed legislation is focused on driving innovation, bringing a variety of fuels to the pump and encouraging investments in research to find cheaper fuels to diesel.

Specifically, the OFS would require that 50 percent of new automobiles in 2014, 80 percent in 2016 and 95 percent in 2017, would be warranted to operate on nonpetroleum-based fuels, in addition to or instead of petroleum-based fuels. Compliance possibilities include an array of existing alternative fuel vehicles—such as flex fuel, natural gas, hydrogen, biodiesel, plug-in electric drive and fuel cell—and a catch-all for new technologies. The CEOs of the Big Three automobile manufacturers have repeatedly gone on record stating their willingness to commit to making 50 percent of new cars flex fuel vehicles or warranted to operate on biodiesel blends above B5 by 2012.

For retail owners like California-based Propel Fuels, the proposed legislation falls in line with the company’s mission of providing more alternative fuel choices at its pumps in the state, according to CEO Matt Horton.

“We’d love to see more vehicle manufacturers come out with stronger support for blends of at least B20,” Horton tells Biodiesel Magazine. “We’re hopeful legislation like this, especially for diesels, will raise awareness of the issues around education of the public and OEM support for biodiesel.”

While the proposed legislation supports the diversification of fuels that retailers can supply, it fails to mention at what cost, if any, would be going to the retailer to build out the infrastructure necessary to install the equipment required to make those fuels available at the pump.

“We’re advocating for an extension and an expansion of the existing infrastructure tax credit to make it easier for retailers to install this very expensive equipment,” Horton says. “Addressing the vehicles is certainly an issue, but it doesn’t matter if we got a lot more vehicles on the road if we still don’t have the infrastructure to deliver the fuel.”

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