By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On July 26, 2022, Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) introduced the bipartisan and bicameral Next Generation Fuels Act (S. 4621), which would aim to leverage higher-octane fuels to improve engine efficiency and performance. According to Grassley’s July 26, 2022, press release, allowing the sale of fuels with greater octane levels would increase the amount of ethanol that can be used in the fuel supply, in turn lowering prices at the pump for consumers. The press release states that due to ethanol’s high-octane rating, greater ethanol blends result in both additional fuel efficiency and significant greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction. Ethanol is also priced lower than gasoline, making it the most cost-effective octane source. Under the bill, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would be required to carry out a study of the emissions effects of ethanol-blended fuels in light-duty vehicles and light-duty trucks, for the purpose of updating the Motor Vehicle Emission Simulator modeling system. The bill would establish a minimum research octane number (RON) standard of 98 for gasoline, which is higher than the typical octane rating of 91 RON today. It would also require sources of the added octane value to reduce carbon emissions by at least 40 percent compared to baseline gasoline. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Finance.