The EPA Wants More Ethanol in Your Gas

It makes for cleaner-burning, though less efficient fuel.

The Environmental Protection Agency has finalized its Renewable Fuels Standard numbers for 2018. The RFS is the set of standards that the EPA sets on how much advanced biofuel, biomass-based diesel, and renewable fuel, like ethanol, needs to be used in the U.S. per year. The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to set these volumes for the following year by Nov. 30 of the prior year.

In other words, it’s the amount of ethanol the EPA requires to be put in gas pumps across America. At least, that’s part of it. Ethanol has been widely researched and proven to be less efficient than regular gasoline according to the EPA’s own data. However, to meet these RFS requirements, most regular gas contains up to 10 percent ethanol, a cleaner burning, renewable fuel.

The new requirement for 2018 is to use 19.29 billion gallons of renewable fuel in the nation’s gasoline while the requirement for 2017 was 19.28 billion gallons. That’s not a big increase, but back in June, the EPA proposed that the number would drop to 19.24 billion. We went from a decrease to an increase.

Whether or not the merits of ethanol outweigh the negatives is debatable, but adding more ethanol to our gas could be bad news for engines that have a hard time handling it. Modern car engines can handle a little ethanol pretty well, but small engines in vehicles like motorcycles, ATVs, and recreational watercraft often run better on “E0” ethanol-free gas, which could be harder to come across if the increase in ethanol requirements continues.

There most likely won’t be a dramatic, noticeable impact on E0 availability in 2018, but more prevalence of a less-efficient fuel is hard to get excited about.