AAA Motorclub Urges RFS Rollback, Ethanol Interests on the Defensive

AAA says best bet is to lower RFS volumes to 'more realistic' targets for 2014

Published on: Oct 30, 2013

You can add the AAA Motorclub to the list of groups opposed to a 2014 elevation in Renewable Fuel Standard volumes.

The group says lower volumes – like the cuts offered in the leaked draft notice of proposed rulemaking provided to the White House Office of Management and Budget earlier this month – would allow consumers the choice of renewable fuels while ensuring costs are kept in check.

Those proposed cuts in the document would scale volumes back from 18.15 billion gallons of renewable fuels to 15.21 billion gallons, and could help avoid the so-called "blend wall," AAA said. The E10 blend wall represents the point at which the market must increase the amount of ethanol blended into fuels to accommodate ethanol supplies.

AAA says best bet is to lower RFS volumes to more realistic targets for 2014
AAA says best bet is to lower RFS volumes to 'more realistic' targets for 2014

If EPA were to continue with the RFS volumes as-is, AAA said it expects negative consumer consequences, mostly because if more ethanol is manufactured, it must be blended into higher levels not yet accepted by consumers. Another ill effect could be higher fuel prices, because blenders unable to meet RFS requirements would be subject to significant fines, therefore incentivizing gasoline exports or burdening producers with unsustainable costs, AAA said.

"There is a real opportunity to put motorists first in what has been a very contentious disagreement between various industries," AAA CEO Bob Darbelnet said in a statement Friday. "Gas and car maintenance costs are high enough as it is, and it would be a relief to know that the RFS will not cause significant problems for consumers next year."

The stance supports AAA's previous comments on renewable fuels, which have been mixed. While the group says it supports the development of alternative fuels, there are concerns that ethanol blends higher than 10% have not been thoroughly vetted.

The group cited results of a 2012 survey that found only 12 million out of the 240 million light-duty vehicles on the road were approved by manufacturers to use E15, and 13 manufacturers have policies that indicate the use of E15 may void warranty coverage.

The group conducted another, similar survey, in which it found 95% of consumers had not heard of E15 – reason enough, the group said, to implement further testing to determine the impact of the fuel on engines and vehicle system components.

However, ethanol groups contend that E15 is safe, citing at least 40 studies and Department of Energy data that have found E15 can be safely used in more than 60% of cars on the road today.

"If Big Oil – and AAA – would stop obstructing consumer choice, American drivers could have access to a choice of higher level ethanol blends that are less expensive, yet higher in octane," Renewable Fuels Association President Bob Dinneen said in a statement. "There is absolutely nothing wrong with it and 2014 obligations can easily be met by refiners via marketing of E15 and E85."