Motorists to Use More Alternative Fuels

by : Lauren Woods

The Bush Administration requires motorists to use at least 4.7 billion gallons of alternative fuels this year as it ramps up to mandate 7.5 billion gallons by 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," said US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Steve Johnson.

The new fuel rule is only about one percent greater than that of last year. However, the final decision of the automaker is higher than the original proposal in 2006. In the said proposal, it requires 3.71 percent of fuel in 2007 to come from alternative sources.

Johnson, for the very first time, has talked about the 5-4 Supreme Court decision which was promulgated last year. The decision states that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the express authority to regulate vehicle tailpipe emissions and labeled carbon dioxide an air pollutant under the Clean Air Act. According to critics, EPA had taken the position it had no power to do so. The government agency has reversed the Clinton Administration decision which runs counter with the Bush Administration's generally expansive view of its authority.

Johnson said the decision is under review: "This isn't the last you've heard from us on this subject." Johnson also intimated that the EPA was also considering whether to grant California a waiver for its 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 over the next decade. So far, ten states have adopted those rules which are set to take effect in 2009. To block the enforcement of the new rules, the auto industry has filed a total of three suits to serve the purpose.

In addition, the environment activists noted that the market and billions of dollars in private equity funding had resulted in more alternative fuel use than the government had recommended in 2006. Moreover, they pointed out that it could do the same for this year.

Philip E. Clapp, the president of the National Environmental Trust, said that the rule "may not result in any more renewable fuels than are already in the pipeline." "Vehicles powered by ethanol get 20-30 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 furthermore noted.

David Doniger, the policy director for the Climate Center at the National Resources Defense Council, scoffed 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," Doniger quipped. He added that the EPA simply repeated "President Bush's proposal that Congress give him a blank check to revise the nation's fuel economy standards without requiring any specific increase."

Sen. Barbara Boxer of D-Calif., ridiculed the definition of alternative fuels. "The President still doesn't seem to understand that just because a fuel is labeled 'alternative' doesn't mean it is renewable or clean," Boxer said. "His fuels plan is constructed to encourage the use of coal-to-liquids, which generates almost twice as much global warming pollution as gasoline."

The EPA said the program would slash 3.9 billon gallons of petroleum to limit greenhouse gas emissions by up to 13.1 million metric tons by 2012. It is equivalent to reducing emissions of up to 2.3 million cars. Nonetheless, while alternative fuels cut benzene emission by as much as six percent and carbon dioxide, they increase smog compounds like nitrogen oxide emissions by approximately 97,000 tons.

The aim of regulating emissions necessitate a hefty sum to ensure that auto parts like engines, , filters and radiators would complement the fuel technology.