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EPA Ethanol Expansion Hardens a Divide

The divide between pro- and anti-ethanol forces is widening now that EPA has approved E15 gas for 2001-06 cars, and it's spilling over to Capitol Hill

By Elizabeth McGowan

Jan 27, 2011

WASHINGTON—A fracture between pro- and anti-ethanol forces seems to be widening into a gorge now that the EPA has expanded the fuel's reach in the transportation sector.

On one side, business, environmental, budget watchdog and public interest organizations are castigating the Environmental Protection Agency's to allow vehicles manufactured between 2001 and 2006 to use gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol. On the other side, the won't be content until even older-model cars, trucks, minivans and sport utility vehicles are included in the E15 mix.

The vituperative back-and-forth has spilled over to Capitol Hill where Oklahoma Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe, ranking member of the , is seeking an oversight hearing.

"EPA's latest action continues to push too much ethanol too fast," in an e-mail. "Unfortunately, Congress has done little to exercise appropriate oversight of such decisions, despite growing bipartisan concerns over ethanol's mechanical problems and its economic and environmental impacts."

The Clean Air Act waiver for E15 gasoline that the EPA announced last Friday comes on the heels of the agency's mid-October granting of an E15 waiver covering vehicles built during and after 2007. A 10 percent ethanol limit still stands for pre-2001 vehicles.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said she reached the E15 conclusion after reviewing testing conducted by the .

"Recently completed testing and data analysis show that E15 does not harm emissions control equipment in newer cars and light trucks," she said via a . "Wherever sound science and the law support steps to allow more home-grown fuels in America's vehicles, this administration takes those steps."

Pollution, Confusion at Gas Pumps Feared

Opponents of Jackson's line of thinking greeted her announcement with a chorus of jeers about the supposed benefits of corn ethanol.

Not only does it spew more climate-damaging emissions than gasoline, they claim, but ethanol production takes land away from food production, raises food prices, encroaches on natural ecosystems, and pollutes water sources because it requires so much fertilizer. As well, they add, varying ethanol blends will puzzle drivers at the pump.

"For several decades now, Washington has propped up ethanol through subsidies, sweetheart tax deals, mandates and other schemes," said Pete Sepp, executive vice president of the . "The EPA shouldn't encourage this dash for cash even further by using its authority to expand E15’s usage."

Other critics from entities as varied as Friends of the Earth, the American Bakers Association, Americans for Limited Government, the American Meat Institute, the National Meat Association, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the International Dairy Foods Association, the National Chicken Council, the National Turkey Federation and the National Council of Chain Restaurants rang in with equally harsh summations.

Inhofe?

I never thoght I'd find myself in agreement with Sen. Inhofe on anything related to the environment and energy.  Corn based ethanol only seems to have one benefit, less dependence on foreign oil.

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