WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Senate committee won’t hold a vote next week on legislation that would have allowed higher ethanol concentrations in some gasoline.
The legislation had been pushed for months by corn-state senators like Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Sen. John Thune (R-N.D.), but they were having trouble getting the support they needed, reported The Hill.
“The legislation does not have the support necessary to pass the committee,” said Mike Danylak, spokesman for Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wy.).
Next week the panel will vote on certain matters; however, the ethanol bill will not be included in that agenda. With the Senate three weeks away from its August recess, it is unclear if the vote will happen then. The bill would have allowed sales of gasoline with 15 percent ethanol, also known as E15, year-round.
Environmental Protection Agency standards currently limit ethanol blends to 10 percent ethanol during the summer months due to concerns about air pollution.
Fischer and other ethanol backers say the legislation would increase the use of a clean, domestic fuel, and that air quality concerns are overblown. The oil industry and some environmental groups joined numerous senators in fighting back. Among other arguments, they say it would further the environmental concerns of ethanol, including those related to air pollution and land use.
Ethanol advocacy group Growth Energy, based in Washington, D.C., said the news was disappointing, but it will not give up on the E15 matter.
“This bill is about protecting consumer choice year-round for a legal fuel that is better for the environment, improves engine performance, and saves Americans money at the pump. We stand firm that Congress should put the needs of consumers ahead of the oil industry,” commented Growth Energy CEO Emily Skor.
According to the executive, consumers have surpassed 1 billion miles driven on E15 and it is now available at more than 900 retail sites across 29 states.
“Drivers are demanding E15, and more retailers are offering it every day. However, due to an outdated regulation that hasn’t been updated since 1990, gas stations are forced to restrict their sales to flex-fuel vehicles only, or remove it from sale altogether between June 1 and September 15. That means that when gas prices are at their peak, consumers are denied the choice of an affordable, cleaner option for their cars,” she added.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee wrote a letter in support of Consumer & Fuel Retailer Choice Act:
“Some stakeholders have characterized Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act as a corn ethanol bill. Cellulosic and corn ethanol are the same molecule (ethanol) produced from different feedstocks; both can be blended to make E15. However, the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) sets renewable fuel blending obligations on oil companies. With the conventional biofuel standard now fulfilled (at 15 billion gallons per year), all future growth under the RFS is in advanced/cellulosic biofuels. The RFS puts the cellulosic ethanol industry in best position to benefit from passage of this legislation,” the letter read.