With the Democrats poised to assume control of both the House and Senate in the 110th Congress, Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum, believes the nation’s policy on biofuels and fuel economy are targets for reform in 2007.
“Certainly the new Congress coming in offers new opportunities for discussing these key issues,” Schaeffer told FleetOwner. “Whether or not there gets to be a serious discussion about climate change remains to be seen. I feel there will be a new chapter in energy policy. [Fuel] consumption will add on a new twist to the discussion on energy policy.”
Renewable fuels is the most likely issue for renewed Congressional scrutiny, Schaeffer said. Among the important issues with renewable fuels are recent problems with biodiesel quality.
“There are some recent studies from the National Biodiesel Board and independent suppliers that found that 50-60% of biodiesel failed to meet quality specifications,” Schaeffer said. “Getting that quality situation headed in the right direction is paramount.”
On March 2006, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a final rule that establishes higher fuel economy standards for model year 2008-2011 light trucks.
For previous coverage, read NHTSA announces light-truck fuel economy overhaul
Some critics of the rule say that it doesn’t go far enough to improve fuel economy, making it potential hotbed for discussion on how to wean the U.S. off its oil addiction.
“Fuel economy in light duty vehicles; that’s a domain that Congress could only deal in,” Schaeffer said. “We’ve heard plenty of rumblings [that it is] going to be on the agenda.”
The renewed Congressional focus on energy will likely come in ’07—the same year diesel engines will comply with more stringent emissions standards and the first full year that ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) will flow out of retail pumps across the nation. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson had already said the ULSD transition “is the single greatest achievement in clean fuel since lead was removed from gasoline 25 years ago.”
“Next year will be a big year in terms of new ‘07 product rolling out,” Schaeffer said. “It’s a historic time…we’ve seen [the ULSD transition] go pretty much without missing a beat. The real test comes out when ‘07 trucks start hitting the street in quantity. It’s going to be a milestone year in terms of this new generation of technology.”
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