Refiners, enviros warn Congress against E15 ethanol

06 February 2009 18:27  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--Environmentalists, refiners, automakers and scientists on Friday warned Congress against boosting the ethanol blend in US gasolines, saying such action could damage engines, safety equipment and the environment.

The group sent an urgent letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Democrat-Nevada) and other senators warning that any proposal in the $900bn (€702bn) economic stimulus bill now being considered by Congress to raise the cap on the US ethanol-gasoline blend would be a mistake.

Although it is not certain to be included in the stimulus bill, there has been talk of using the emergency economic rescue bill to boost the nation’s ethanol fuel blend to 15% from the current 10%.

“In our collective opinion, a decision on whether to permit the use of ethanol concentrations in excess of 10% in gasoline [so-called ‘mid-level ethanol blends’] in motor vehicle and equipment engines must be guided solely by sound, unbiased and comprehensive science and must hold true to the fundamental purposes of protecting the environment and consumers,” the coalition said.

The group noted that changes in US fuels and fuel additives must by law be reviewed first by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“These procedures must be followed rigorously, without analytical short-cuts, to prevent degradation of air quality and potential economic injury and personal safety risks for consumers,” the coalition said.

US ethanol advocates have long argued that a federal mandate for 15% ethanol fuel blends, known as E15, would help advance development of biobased fuels.

But US bio-ethanol production, which is corn based, has come under increasing criticism from a broad range of interests, including environmentalists who argue that corn ethanol production is counter-productive to clean air efforts.

The coalition that urged Congress to not authorise an E15 blend includes the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA), the American Lung Association, the Clean Air Task Force, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the Environmental Working Group, motorcycle and snowmobile manufacturers and the Union of Concerned Scientists, among others.

The group warned that an untested introduction of E15 fuels to the US marketplace could damage some vehicle engines, cause failure of automotive emission control systems or safety features and could lead to significant emissions increases.

($1 = €0.78)

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By: Joe Kamalick
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