An odd coalition of environmental and business groups is banding together to head off a move to increase the amount of ethanol in gasoline to 15%, up from 10% in most places now.
A spokeswoman, Abbey Franke, says that the government may decide whether to allow the higher blend by September, if not sooner.
Groups ranging from the Natural Resources Defense Council to the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association issued a joint statement yesterday opposing more ethanol in gas. They say they fear that if the 15% ethanol/85% gas mix isn't approved, ethanol backers might try for a 12% compromise, which they also oppose.
Ethanol, basically grain alcohol, usually is made from corn in the U.S. Gasoline sold in much of the nation has up to 10% ethanol mixed in to cut pollution and burn less foreign oil. It has huge support from corn growers and is usually a political football in farm states. Opponents often cite ethanol's high cost:
Production of ethanol is heavily subsidized by the federal government, though the subsidy, too, is being debated. And some small engine makers, such as for snowmobiles, warn that higher mixes might cause internal damage.
A higher mix of 85% ethanol/15% gasoline -- so-called E85 -- is sold primarily in the Midwest, but vehicles have to be designed to accept that much ethanol, which is more corrosive than gasoline. Detroit automakers have been big supporters and expanded the numbers of such "flex fuel" vehicles that can use E85.
But opponents are lining up: "Rather than run a giant science experiment on the vehicles and gasoline-powered equipment owned by just about every American family, we believe Congress and the EPA have a responsibility to protect the public," said National Petrochemical & Refiners Association President Charles Drevna."They shouldn't authorize E15 unless full and complete scientific testing confirms it's safe and compatible with all gasoline-powered engines."
Interestingly, the coalition also includes some groups connected to food processing -- the American Frozen Food Institute; American Meat Institute; Grocery Manufacturers Association and Snack Food Association -- who believe diverting more corn to ethanol will raise the price.