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Please note: This summary is provided to help you understand the regulations. Consult the references provided for links to the full text of the regulations.

Alternative Fuels -- Federal Regulations

This page contains selected data from the Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC) at the U. S. Department of Energy. Additional details and the latest updates may be found at the AFDC summary page for Federal.

Vehicle Acquisition

Determination (no local mandate)

Under the Energy Policy Act (EPAct) of 1992, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) was directed to determine whether private and local government fleets should be mandated to acquire alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs). In January 2004, DOE published a final rule announcing its decision not to implement an AFV acquisition mandate for private and local government fleets. In response to a March 2006 ruling by a U.S. District Court, DOE issued a subsequent final rulemaking on the new Replacement Fuel Goal in March 2007, which extended the EPAct 1992 goal to 2030. The goal is to achieve a domestic production capacity for replacement fuels sufficient to replace 30% of the U.S. motor fuel consumption. In March 2008, DOE issued its determination not to implement a fleet compliance mandate for private and local government fleets, concluding that such a mandate is not necessary to achieve the Replacement Fuel Goal. For more information on the Private and Local Government Fleet Rule compliance, visit the EPAct Private and Local Government Fleet Determination website. (Reference 42 U.S. Code 13257)

Federal vehicles

Under the Energy Policy Act (EPAct) of 1992, 75% of new light-duty vehicles acquired by certain federal fleets must be alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs). As amended in January 2008, Section 301 of EPAct 1992 defines AFVs to include hybrid electric vehicles, fuel cell vehicles, and advanced lean burn vehicles. Federal fleets are also required to use alternative fuels in dual-fuel vehicles unless the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) determines an agency qualifies for a waiver; grounds for a waiver include the lack of alternative fuel availability and cost restrictions. Fleets that use fuel blends containing at least 20% biodiesel (B20) in medium- and heavy-duty vehicle may earn credits toward their annual requirements. Additionally, Executive Order 13423, issued in January 2007, requires federal agencies with 20 vehicles or more in their U.S. fleet to decrease petroleum consumption by 2% per year, relative to their Fiscal Year (FY) 2005 baseline, through FY 2015. Agencies must also continue to increase their alternative fuel use by 10% per year, relative to the previous year.Executive Order 13514, issued in October 2009, requires each federal agency to develop, implement, and annually update a Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan. Federal agencies must measure, reduce, and report their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, with an overall federal government GHG emissions reduction goal of 28% by 2020, relative to a 2008 baseline. Federal fleets of 20 vehicles or more must reduce petroleum consumption by a minimum of 2% per year through the end of FY 2020 as compared to 2005 baseline usage. Each agency must establish a comprehensive inventory of GHG emissions for FY 2010, to be updated on an annual basis thereafter. Reductions may be achieved through a variety of measures including the use of AFVs, and fleet optimization efforts. For more information, visit the Federal Fleet Management website.Additional requirements for federal fleets were included in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, including low GHG emitting vehicle acquisition requirements and renewable fuel infrastructure installation. These requirements are dependent upon formal rulemaking by DOE.(Reference 42 U.S. Code 13212, Executive Order 13423 (PDF), and Executive Order 13514 (PDF).

State agency vehicles (certain states)

Under the Energy Policy Act (EPAct) of 1992, certain state government and alternative fuel provider fleets are required to acquire alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs). Compliance is required by fleets that operate, lease, or control 50 or more light-duty vehicles within the U.S. Of those 50 vehicles, at least 20 must be used primarily within a single Metropolitan Statistical Area/Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Area. Those same 20 vehicles must also be capable of being centrally fueled. Covered fleets earn credits for each vehicle purchased, and credits earned in excess of their requirements can be banked or traded with other fleets. Additionally, fleets that use fuel blends containing at least 20% biodiesel (B20) in medium- and heavy-duty vehicles may earn credits toward their annual AFV acquisition requirements.On March 20, 2007, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued a final rule on Alternative Compliance (PDF), which allows fleets the option to choose a petroleum reduction path in lieu of acquiring AFVs. Interested fleets must obtain a waiver from DOE by proving that they will achieve petroleum reductions equivalent to that achieved by having AFVs running on alternative fuels 100% of the time. For more information, visit the EPAct State and Alternative Fuel Provider Fleets website. (Reference 42 U.S. Code 13251 and 13263a, and 10 CFR 490)

Fuel Use

Program (Renewable Fuel Standard)

The national RFS Program was developed to increase the volume of renewable fuel that is blended into transportation fuels. As required by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized RFS Program regulations, effective September 1, 2007. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, signed into law in December 2007, increased and expanded this standard. By 2022, 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel must be used per year. A certain percentage of the renewable fuel blended into transportation fuels must be cellulosic biofuel, biomass-based diesel, and advanced biofuel.To facilitate and track compliance with the RFS, a producer or importer of renewable fuel must generate Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) to represent renewable fuels produced or imported by the entity on or after September 1, 2007, assigned by gallon or batch. Assigned RINs are transferred when ownership of a batch of fuel occurs, but not when fuel only changes custody. A trading program is in place to allow obligated parties to comply with the annual RVO requirements through the purchase of RINs. Obligated parties must register with EPA in order to participate in the trading program. For each calendar year, an obligated party must demonstrate that it has sufficient RINs to cover its RVO. RINs may only be used for compliance purposes in the calendar year they are generated or the following year. Obligated parties must report their ownership of RINs to EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality on a quarterly and annual basis.(Reference 42 U.S. Code 7545(o) and 40 CFR 80.1100-80.1167)


Cost Allocation

The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) must allocate the incremental cost of purchasing alternative fuel vehicles across the entire fleet of vehicles distributed by GSA. This mandate also applies to other federal agencies that procure vehicles for federal fleets. (Reference 42 U.S. Code 13212 (c))

Definition and Specifications

The following fuels are defined as alternative fuels by the Energy Policy Act (EPAct) of 1992: pure methanol, ethanol, and other alcohols; blends of 85% or more of alcohol with gasoline; natural gas and liquid fuels domestically produced from natural gas; liquefied petroleum gas (propane); coal-derived liquid fuels; hydrogen; electricity; pure biodiesel (B100); fuels, other than alcohol, derived from biological materials; and P-Series fuels. In addition, the U.S. Department of Energy may designate other fuels as alternative fuels, provided that the fuel is substantially nonpetroleum, yields substantial energy security benefits, and offers substantial environmental benefits. (Reference 42 U.S. Code 13211)

Labeling Requirements (vehicles, fuel pumps)

Alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) and fuel dispensers must be labeled with information to help consumers make informed decisions about buying or fueling a vehicle. All new and used AFVs, including vehicles with an aftermarket conversion system installed, must be clearly labeled with the vehicle's cruising range as estimated by the manufacturer, as well as other descriptive information. The labeling requirements do not apply to hybrid electric vehicles. Alternative fuel dispensers must also be clearly labeled with the name of the fuel and fuel rating. This rule applies to, but is not limited to, the following fuel types: methanol, denatured ethanol, and/or other alcohols; mixtures containing 85% or more by volume of methanol, denatured ethanol, and/or other alcohols; natural gas; liquefied petroleum gas; hydrogen; coal derived liquid biofuels; biodiesel blends containing more than 5% biodiesel by volume; and electricity. (Reference 16 CFR 306 and 309)

Program(Clean Cities)

The mission of Clean Cities is to advance the energy, economic, and environmental security of the United States by supporting local initiatives to adopt practices that reduce the use of petroleum in the transportation sector. Clean Cities carries out this mission through a network of more than 80 volunteer coalitions, which develop public/private partnerships to promote alternative fuels and advanced vehicles, fuel blends, fuel economy, hybrid vehicles, and idle reduction. Clean Cities provides information about financial opportunities, coordinates technical assistance projects; updates and maintains databases and websites, and publishes fact sheets, newsletters, and related technical and informational materials.

Program (Clean Ports)

Clean Ports USA is an incentive-based program designed to reduce emissions by encouraging port authorities and terminal operators to retrofit and replace older diesel engines with new technologies and use cleaner fuels. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's National Clean Diesel Campaign offers funding to port authorities and public entities to help them overcome barriers that impede the adoption of cleaner diesel technologies and strategies.

Program (National Clean Diesel Campaign)

The NCDC was established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reduce pollution emitted from diesel engines through the implementation of varied control strategies and the involvement of national, state, and local partners. The NCDC includes programs for existing diesel fleets, regulations for clean diesel engines and fuels, and regional collaborations and partnerships. For information on available grants and funding opportunities, see the NCDC Grants & Funding website.

Program (SmartWay)

The SmartWay Transport Partnership is a voluntary partnership between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the ground freight industry. It was designed to reduce greenhouse gases and air pollution through increased fuel efficiency. EPA provides partners with benefits and services that include fleet management tools, technical support, information, public recognition, and use of the SmartWay Transport Partner logo. The SmartWay Transport Partnership is working with states, banks, and other organizations to develop innovative financing options that help Partners purchase devices that save fuel and reduce emissions. Grants are available to states, nonprofits, and academic institutions to demonstrate innovative idle reduction technologies for the trucking industry.

Tax Credit (hydrogen fueling equipment)

A tax credit is available for the cost of hydrogen fueling equipment placed into service after December 31, 2005. The credit amount is up to 30% of the cost, not to exceed $30,000. Fueling station owners who install qualified equipment at multiple sites are allowed to use the credit towards each location. Consumers who purchase qualified residential fueling equipment may receive a tax credit of up to $1,000. Under current law, this credit expires December 31, 2014. Unused credits that qualify as general business tax credits, as defined by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), may be carried backward one year and carried forward 20 years. For more information, see IRS Form 8911, which is available via the IRS website. (Reference 26 U.S. Code 30C and 38)

Tax Credit (cellulosic biofuel)

A cellulosic biofuel producer that is registered with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) may be eligible for a tax incentive in the amount of up to $1.01 per gallon of cellulosic biofuel that is: sold and used by the purchaser in the purchaser's trade or business to produce a cellulosic biofuel mixture; sold and used by the purchaser as a fuel in a trade or business; sold at retail for use as a motor vehicle fuel; used by the producer in a trade or business to produce a cellulosic biofuel mixture; or used by the producer as a fuel in a trade or business. If the cellulosic biofuel also qualifies for alcohol fuel tax credits, the credit amount is reduced to $0.46 per gallon for biofuel that is ethanol and $0.41 per gallon if the biofuel is not ethanol. Cellulosic biofuel is defined as liquid fuel produced from any lignocellulosic or hemicellulosic matter that is available on a renewable basis, and meets U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fuel and fuel additive registration requirements. Alcohol with a proof of less than 150, fuel with a water or sediment content of more than 4%, and fuel with an ash content of more than 1% are not considered cellulosic biofuels. The incentive is allowed as a credit against the producer's income tax liability. Under current law, only qualified fuel produced in the U.S. between January 1, 2009, and December 31, 2012, for use in the United States may be eligible. For more information, see IRS Publication 510 and IRS Forms 637 and 6478, which are available via the IRS website. (Reference Public Law 111-152, Section 1408; Public Law 110-234, Section 15321; and 26 U.S. Code 40)

Tax Exemption (idle reduction equipment)

Qualified on-board idle reduction devices and advanced insulation are exempt from the federal excise tax imposed on the retail sale of heavy-duty highway trucks and trailers. The exemption also applies to the installation of qualified equipment on vehicles after the vehicles have been placed into service. For a list of eligible products and additional information about product exemption eligibility criteria, see the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) SmartWay Technology Program Federal Excise Tax Exemption website. The exemption applies to equipment that was determined by the Administrator of the EPA, in consultation with the Secretary of Energy and the Secretary of Transportation, to reduce the idling of the tractor at a motor vehicle rest stop or other location where such vehicles are temporarily parked or remain stationary. Only equipment sold on or after October 4, 2008, is eligible. For more information, see IRS Publication 510 and the instructions for IRS Form 720, which are available via the IRS website. (Reference Public Law 110-343, Section 206, and 26 U.S. Code 4053)