Falling Down and Getting Up: The Next Generation Fuels Act Reintroduced in Congress

April 12, 2023

Growing up as a competitive figure skater taught me valuable life lessons that I have taken with me into adulthood. For example, don’t open your eyes when your mom is spraying hairspray, remember to drink your water, and most importantly, if you fall, get back up and try again. Trying again is a good way to phrase the recent reintroduction of the Next Generation Fuels Act into Congress

Oh neat, Congress is doing something and tagging on to the Clean Air Act. Actually, the proposed pieces of legislation are a little bit heftier than that. The body of legislation aims to provide higher octane fuels to the end consumer for a lower price. The bill proposes two separate ways of doing this. First, it requires that vehicle manufacturers produce a vehicle that can run off of fuels with higher octanes. Second, it creates a Clean Octane standard by which the federal government would make it illegal to sell fuel that contains hydrocarbons in excess of a certain percentage.

For the bill proposed in the House, vehicles have to be compliant by 2031 and the Clean Octane standard would begin in 2025. For the bill proposed in the Senate, vehicles would have to be compliant by 2033 and the Clean Octane standard would begin in 2027.

Octane? My guy, I just look for the lowest price at the pump…If I’m being honest, that’s what I do as well. Octane is a measurement of fuel stability. The higher the octane, the better gas mileage your car is likely to get, the better your engine will run, etc.

Aww man. You’re telling me that the federal government is going to require that I fill my car with the really expensive stuff? Isn’t that like, roughly, $10.00 per gallon right now? Very generally speaking, the lower the octane, the lower the price of fuel. For example, the average consumer might notice that 87 octane fuel is priced at $3.49 per gallon while the 93 octane fuel is quite a bit higher at $4.12 per gallon. However, fuel additives can be used to keep the octane level up while keeping the price of the fuel down.

The cost of higher octane fuels is where the renewable fuels industry comes in. Keep in mind, the Clean Octane standard as it is currently proposed is intended to decrease the percentage of hydrocarbons in the fuel which can be accomplished by offering higher octane fuels. In essence, it is possible to produce a higher octane fuel by blending renewable fuels. Additionally, because renewable fuels can be supplied at a lower cost than many other motor fuel additives that do the same thing, the cost to the consumer could potentially become lower.

Now, we get to the age old question: will the bill in the House or its sister bill in the Senate be made into law? Like Han Solo, I don’t like being told the odds. Both bills were brought by a group of bipartisan representatives and senators. If you subscribe to the thinking that something is more likely to be accomplished when both sides agree to it, then I would have to say that either of the bills have a good chance of being passed.

What happens if neither bills pass?  Just like missing a jump in figure skating, I’m sure both groups of politicians will want to try again.