The Environmental Protection Agency is about to allow a new renewable fuel to be sold at the pump, which could revolutionize the fuel business while eliminating the use of corn ethanol in gasoline altogether, according to a recent story in the Washington Examiner.
The agency, in its proposal to approve the fuel, called it an “attractive option” to meet the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), because of its superior qualities compared to conventional corn ethanol, including its higher energy density. The EPA put a notice in the Federal Register asking for public comment and is reviewing the comments now.
Ethanol and biobutanol are alcohol fuels derived from fermenting corn. But biobutanol is not corrosive like ethanol and behaves more like conventional gasoline. That means cars, boats and other machines that require gasoline can use it at high levels without experiencing problems.
The Energy Department lists four main benefits of the fuel. It has a "higher energy content" than most gasoline alternatives such as ethanol. It has lower Reid Vapor Pressure than ethanol, which means lower fuel volatility and emissions. It also provides for "Increased energy security" because it can be produced "domestically from a variety of feedstocks, while creating U.S. jobs." Finally, it reduces carbon dioxide emissions.
Rural Lifestyle Dealer asked Kris Kiser, president of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute for his thoughts on biobutanol and its implications for the outdoor power equipment industry. "It has performed well and does not have the same problems as ethanol for small engines," Kiser says. The challenges surround large-scale production, availability and the overall transition to this new fuel, he says.
Biobutanol is sometimes called a “drop-in” fuel because it can easily be put into the nation’s fuel supply without any harmful effects, has none of the drawbacks of conventional corn-based ethanol.
According to the story, the RFS program is dominated by corn ethanol, which comprises about 15 billion gallons of the renewable fuel refiners must blend annually. The remaining portion of the total 36 billion gallons that refiners must blend by 2022 will have to come from more advanced fuels such as biobutanol. More advanced fuels are just starting to be produced, but at relatively low levels.