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Senate OKs Wider Use of Ethanol as a Gas Additive

June 06, 2003|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Gasoline containing the additive ethanol will be in widespread use across the nation by 2012 under a plan approved Thursday by the Senate.

The proposal, incorporated into a broader energy bill, would dramatically change how refiners blend gasoline and how they meet federal clean air requirements. It would require a doubling of ethanol use, to at least 5 billion gallons a year, in what would be a boon to corn farmers.

The ethanol additive is made mainly in the Midwest from corn, although it can come from other grains and biomass. Under the new mandate, it would have to be used by refiners in every state except Alaska and Hawaii.

The bipartisan measure, approved 67 to 29, also would ban use of methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE, a gasoline additive that is made from methanol, a derivative of natural gas, and that is found to contaminate drinking water supplies.

Refiners would have more freedom to blend fuel because of the lifting of a federal requirement that gasoline contain at least 2% oxygen in areas with air pollution problems. Although the oxygen rule has been credited with achieving significant reductions in automobile tailpipe pollution, refiners say they can produce cleaner gasoline without it.

Opponents said expanding ethanol's use could lead to gasoline shortages and price surges in regions where there are no ethanol plants. The ethanol industry says it does not anticipate any problems meeting the increased demand.

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