Bush Administration Pumps Up Alternative Fuels Standard

by : Lauren Woods

The Bush administration announced last Tuesday it would mandate motorists to use at least 4.7 billion gallons of alternative fuels this year as it endeavors to achieve 7.5 billion gallons annually come the year 2012.

"The renewable fuels standard offers the American people a hat trick - it protects the environment, strengthens our energy security and supports America's farmers," Steve Johnson, the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), expressed.

The new rule requires four percent of gasoline in 2007 be renewable-based. As such, there is an expected consumption of 4.7 billion gallons of alternative fuels this year. While that is only about one percent higher than in the previous year, it is higher than the original 3.71 percent proposal which was announced just last year.

Johnson said that last week's 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court ruling found the EPA has the express authority to regulate vehicle tailpipe emissions and labeled carbon dioxide an air pollutant under the Clean Air Act. EPA believes it has no authority over regulating emissions. This is in contrary to the Clinton administration decision which is at odds with the Bush administration's expansive view of the EPA's authority.

Johnson said that the court decision is under review. "This isn't the last you've heard from us on this subject," he said. He also said the EPA is considering whether to grant California a waiver to move ahead with tough tailpipe emissions standards that could require automakers to boost fuel economy by more than 25 percent and raise passenger car standards to 43 miles per gallon during the next decade.

Philip E. Clapp, the president of the National Environmental Trust, said the new rule "may not result in any more renewable fuels than are already in the pipeline." "Vehicles powered by ethanol get 20 to 30 percent fewer miles per gallon than they do with gasoline, so in order to reduce spending at the pump any renewable fuels mandate must be coupled with significant improvements to auto fleet efficiency," Clapp said.

David Doniger, the policy director for the Climate Center at the National Resources Defense Council, derided the EPA decision as meaningless. "The administration is pushing minor new legislative proposals that at most would slow how fast global warming pollution is allowed to grow. But it opposes any new laws to actually cap and cut that pollution. And it is ignoring the authority it already has to take a big bite out of global warming pollution under the Clean Air Act," he said.

Doniger added that the EPA merely reiterated "President Bush's proposal that Congress give him a blank check to revise the nation's fuel economy standards without requiring any specific increase."

By far, ten states have adopted the new rules concerning emissions. They are expected to take effect starting in 2009. The new rule also requires refinement of auto parts to blend well with the alternative fuels. This means addition expense to achieve the necessary level efficiency regarding , engines, radiator, filters and more. This is one of the reasons why automakers are against its arbitrary enforcement. To block the enforcement, the auto industry has filed three suits. The first suit filed before the U.S. District Court in Vermont, went to trial last Tuesday.