TEN reasons why an OPEN FUEL STANDARD is good for the environment
Almost all of the roughly 15 million new vehicles rolled onto America’s roads annually are
capable of running on nothing but oil. This gives oil a stronghold over our economy while
exposing us to economically devastating supply disruptions and price shocks.
An OPEN FUEL STANDARD would require new cars sold in the U.S. to be warranted to operate
on non-petroleum fuels in addition to or instead of petroleum based fuels. Competition and
consumer choice in the transportation fuel market would, by enabling drivers to choose to
purchase a different fuel on the fly, serve to dampen the impact of oil price volatility on our
Such a policy would also have important benefits for the environment.
- Oil is the largest contribution to U.S. CO2 emissions. Oil is responsible for 42% of U.S.
CO2 emissions while coal is responsible for 37%. A variety of alternative fuels have
lower lifecycle carbon content than oil. An OPEN FUEL STANDARD would enable lower
carbon fuels to compete against oil.
- While alternative fuels become greener, oil becomes dirtier. As we shift from coal
powered electricity to natural gas, nuclear and renewable energy our grid is becoming
cleaner as time goes by. Electric vehicles enable us to take advantage of this cleaner
electricity. The shift to second and third generation biofuels also delivers environmental
benefits. In other words, alternatives become cleaner. On the other hand, perpetuating
oil-powered transportation inevitably means that we will be using increasingly carbon
intensive fuels as we move from conventional crude to non-conventional oil made from
tar sands and oil shale.
- Reduce methane flaring. Throughout the world, natural gas producing countries flare
methane at the wellhead, a greenhouse gas 23 times more potent than CO2. According
to the World Bank 5 trillion cubic feet of methane are flared globally, equivalent to
roughly one third of U.S. natural gas consumption. It takes 100 cubic feet of natural gas
to produce one gallon of methanol. Opening the door to methanol will entice methane
flaring countries to monetize this potent greenhouse gas by capturing it and turning it
into usable fuel.
- Enable CO2-to-fuel pathways. The most economically sensible way to deal with CO2 is
not to bury it but to use it as feedstock in the production of usable and sellable
products. Ethanol and biodiesel can be made from CO2 soaking algae. Methanol can be
made from hydrogenated flue gas emitted by power plants. Opening our vehicle
platforms to such fuels would instill CO2 in the value chain of our fuel supply ensuring
that every CO2 molecule we burn on board a vehicle is cancelled out by a similar
molecule captured in the fuel making process.
- Absent prosperity, environmental concerns fall to the bottom of the public’s priority list.
Perpetuating petroleum’s virtual monopoly over transportation fuels would expose our
economy to painful oil shocks with crippling economic impact. In tough economic times,
priorities change and the public is more reluctant to support environmental policies. An
OPEN FUEL STANDARD serves to dampen oil prices as it allows consumers to shift on the
fly to alternatives and hence protect the U.S. economy from recessions.
- Recessions drain investments in renewable energy. When recession hits the renewable
energy sector is the first casualty. Investment funds drain and startups close shop.
Again, the OPEN FUEL STANDARD would help to reduce the likelihood, frequency and
velocity of recessions, protecting the renewable energy industry from nasty road
- Enable the poor to grow their fuel. Poor, oil dependent countries suffer most from rising
oil prices. If cars were capable of running on alternatives, developing economies would
be able to develop their agricultural sector and grow their own fuel on that vast swaths
of land currently used, at most, for subsistence farming. Turning degraded land into
cultivated land would reduce CO2 concentrations.
- Natural gas fuels emit less GHG than gasoline. Compressed natural gas yields 28%
reduction vs. petroleum fuel displaced. Methanol from natural gas yields 8% reduction.
An OPEN FUEL STANDARD would enable natural gas based fuels to compete against oil,
something the current fleet does not permit.
- A growing portion of our oil is drilled offshore. As the BP Gulf of Mexico spill showed
offshore drilling presents risks of environmentally devastating spills. Alcohol fuels like
ethanol and methanol dissolve in water and are readily consumed by bacteria and
therefore pose no risk to the environment or to groundwater in case of spillage or leak.
Within a few days of an Exxon Valdez like alcohol spill, the ocean would be back to
- Gasoline is detrimental to human health. Today, oil companies are allowed to use
aromatics as octane boosters. Aromatics like benzene, toluene and xylene are toxic,
carcinogenic and increase pollution. Alcohol fuels are high octane yet non-carcinogens
and should therefore be used instead of aromatics.
An OPEN FUEL STANDARD is an environmentally friendly policy. It is a market based approach
which protects the U.S. economy from debilitating oil shocks without imposing a burden on our
national budget. Without an OPEN FUEL STANDARD we are destined to remain beholden to oil
as the only source of energy in the transportation fuel sector to the detriment of our
environment, health, economy and national security.