New Senate ethanol bill addresses E15 waiver

By Craig A. Johnson | September 15, 2009
Report posted Sept. 17, 2009, at 3:26 p.m. CST

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) introduced legislation they intend will ensure that new gasoline fuel mixtures introduced into the marketplace are compatible with gasoline-fueled engines already in widespread use.

The bill requires that fuel with an ethanol concentration above 10 percent be certified by the U.S. EPA as being compliant with the Clean Air Act before being permitted into commerce. It also calls upon the EPA's Science Advisory Board to study the compatibility of the new fuel blend with current engines.

"During these difficult economic times, equipment damage due to ethanol-gasoline fuel blends only adds to the many challenges facing our nation's farmers, fishermen, independent woodsmen, and recreational industry," Collins said. "As we pursue strategies to lessen our dependence on foreign oil, we must also take action to ensure that ethanol fuel blends are safe and efficient for small engines."

"Ethanol simply burns differently than gasoline," saidCardin, a member fo the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. "I fully support the development of biofuels to help cure the U.S. of its dependence on foreign oil, but we need to make such a transition in a way that helps, not hurts, commercial and recreational equipment, as well as the environment. We need to let good science guide us in making sure that we are getting the clean air benefits and engine performance that boaters, lawn care companies and others who rely on smaller engines deserve."

The Clean Air Act prohibits the sale of mid-level ethanol blends, but the ethanol industry is seeking a waiver from the EPA to sell E15 as a general purpose fuel.

The Mid-Level Ethanol Blends Act of 2009, S. 1666, was co-sponsored by Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.).