What Did the Open Fuel Standard Act of 2011 Say?

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Open Fuel Standard Act essentially says that by 2017 automakers will no longer be allowed to make cars that run only on gasoline. The bill says that by 2017, ninety-five percent of all cars made in the United States will be in that category.

The category includes flex fuel (capable of burning gasoline, ethanol or methanol or any combination of these), natural gas, hydrogen, biodiesel, plug-in electric, and fuel cell. The bill will provide certainty to investors to produce alternative fuels and fueling stations. Below is the core of the bill, quoted from the bill itself:

Each manufacturer's fleet of covered vehicles for a particular model year shall be comprised of:

(1) not less than 50 percent qualified vehicles beginning in model year 2014; 
(2) not less than 80 percent qualified vehicles beginning in model year 2016; and 
(3) not less than 95 percent qualified vehicles beginning in model year 2017 and each subsequent year.

"Qualified vehicle" means a covered vehicle that:

(A) has been warranted by its manufacturer to operate solely on natural gas, hydrogen, or biodiesel; 
(B) is a flexible fuel vehicle; 
(C) is a plug-in electric drive vehicle; 
(D) is propelled solely by fuel cell that produces power without the use of petroleum or a petroleum-based fuel; or 
(E) is propelled solely by something other than an internal combustion engine, and produces power without the use of petroleum or a petroleum-based fuel;

The term `flexible fuel vehicle' means a vehicle that has been warranted by its manufacturer to operate on gasoline, E85, and M85.

The term `E85' means a fuel mixture containing 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline by volume; 
The term `M85' means a fuel mixture containing 85 percent methanol and 15 percent gasoline by volume; 
The term `biodiesel' means diesel fuel which has been produced from a non-petroleum feedstock and which meets the standards of ASTM D6751-03.


Anonymous,  December 3, 2011 at 9:34 PM  

I support this bill. So does my rep.

Zubrin, as you know, just published an article at National Review. If I read him correctly, he says that most new cars today are already flex fuel capable, so it is no longer accurate to say that the Open Fuel Standard would cost $100 per car. That cost is gone, since new cars are already flex fuel capable. Zubrin says the problem now is to get the car companies to "activate" the technology that's already in the car. He suggests that the reason they don't is that they are influenced by people who have an interest in maintaining the pretroleum monopoly on transport fuel.

It's a big question. Why are the car companies not activating the technology that, apparently quite recently, is becoming almost standard on new cars? Are they merely taking their time because the change could be a big one and they want a moment to consider the business impact? Or is it what Zubrin suggests, that economic interests in the petroleum monopoly are responsible?

Abe Shackleton December 5, 2011 at 3:14 AM  

That is a very good question. Are car companies somehow in cahoots with oil companies?

Or is it complacency? It took strong measures to get car companies to put in seat belts, too.

Anonymous,  December 25, 2011 at 12:13 PM  

Yes, it is an interesting question. If, in fact, some car manufacturers are in cahoots with oil companies, they must be boycotted by consumers.

Benjamin "Reticuli" Goulart March 13, 2012 at 6:28 PM  

Most car companies either own stakes in oil companies or they are involved in partnerships with oil companies (like GM & Shell’s hydrogen fuel cell project) where most or all of the money for said partnership comes from the oil company.

Yes, most of the major car companies have a financial interest in keeping oil as the single dominant liquid fuel around the world.

That said, the wording of the OFSA is oddly casual in its urgency. Five years? The car companies could have 100% of all new-model-year gasoline-using cars fully flex-fuel within a year at a cost of a couple dollars PER CAR.

Anonymous,  May 14, 2012 at 4:54 AM  

I would argue that the flex-fuel vehicle should also be able to run on ammonia. Ammonia is easily made from hydrogen and nitrogen. (The manufacturing process was invented a century ago, of course by the Germans.) The hydrogen can be produced by natural gas, nukes, coal, windmills etc. (About three quarters of the atmosphere is nitrogen, so there's no shortage.) It is about as easy to liquify as LPG. It's about as safe as hydrocarbon fuel (you wouldn't die as fast if covered in ammonia rather than burning gasoline by an accident-a definite weakness.) It doesn't have the energy density of hydrocarbon fuels (few things do) but these could be reserved for aviation, unless we decide to go back to zeppelins.

JRT August 15, 2012 at 4:02 PM  

There appears to be a serious problem here. Like all Greens, the writers of this bill have failed to consider synthetic hydrocarbon fuels produced from organic waste and biomass (including green crude from Algae).

Abe Shackleton August 16, 2012 at 1:17 PM  

JRT, as long as the car is not gasoline ONLY, it would be allowed with the Open Fuel Standard. Synthetic hydrocarbon fuels fit the bill.

Benjamin "Reticuli" Goulart,  October 3, 2012 at 10:35 AM  

Sorry, I got it reversed. Significant or controlling interests of the car companies are also controlling interests in oil companies. To paraphrase the stats from one of Zubrin's other pieces:
Volkswagen = Qatar (17%)
Daimler/Mercedes = Kuwait (6.9%), UAE (9.1%)
Spyker/SAAB = Kuwait (20%)
Chrysler = UAE
Fiat/Ferrari who own 52% of Chrysler = Libya (2%)
Wall Street firms have $9 billion invested in GM and $24 billion invested in Ford, but these firms have more than $700 billion also tied up in energy...which mostly means oil.
And this doesn't even get into the partnerships, like GM & Shell propagandizing "cheap" hydrogen and hydrogen fuel cell technology to distract people from cheaper, more realistic solutions. I also wonder what the proportion of financing for that venture was GM and what porportion was paid for by Shell. It would not surprise me if it was mostly Shell.

Stephen Kutney,  November 11, 2012 at 11:17 AM  

In the December 2012 issue of Grassroots Motorsports they published an article called THE FUEL TRUTH. The article compared QuickTrip 93 Octane Street Gas E10,87 QuickTrip 87 Octane E10, Hyperfuels 93 Octane without Alcohol, Hyperfuels E85, Shell URT 100 Race Gas, Shell URT 105 Octane Race Gas and VP M1 Racing Methanol. They ran all the fuels in a Mazda Miata. To quote the Methanol section "The Miata required almost double (92% more) the amount of methanol compared to the pump-sourced 93, but it required the least amount of ignition timing to find Mean Best Torque. Despite the softer ignition curve, the methanol-fueled Miata gained an impressive 24 horsepower and 16 lb.-ft. of torque." They also said "Unfortunately, it's highly corrosive and can't be used in a daily driver--it eats rubber seals and aluminum like nobody's business." When I think about it Flex Fuel Trucks use iron heads with aluminum blocks. My guess that an all aluminum engine in common use today would have problems. In the article they used racing methanol which costs $4 per gallon. The Open Fuel Standard seems to avocate the less pure methanol which wholesales for about $1.30 a gallon. What is the effect of the less pure methanol?

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