Speaker Hastert supports ethanol mandate for US reformulated gasoline

US Speaker of House Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) Wednesday endorsed a new bipartisan proposal to establish a national clean fuel standard that includes a fuel ethanol mandate. In the Senate, Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) is a strong fuel ethanol supporter and has indicated that streamlining reformulated gasoline rules is one of his priorities.


Maureen Lorenzetti
OGJ Online

WASHINGTON, DC, June 20 -- US Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) Wednesday endorsed a new bipartisan proposal to establish a national clean fuel standard that includes a fuel ethanol mandate.

The Gasoline Access and Stabilization Act of 2001 is sponsored by Reps. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) and would amend the Clean Act Amendments of 1990 so that the US Environmental Protection Agency could retool the way it enforces its oxygenated fuel and reformulated gasoline programs.

Hastert said, "I believe this bill not only will help make it easier to comply with the Clean Air Act by streamlining the number of very specialized, boutique fuels from 14 different blends nationwide down to 3, it also will help save motorists an estimates 12¢/gal over the long run."

Current clean air guidelines mandate the use of oxygenated fuels in areas that do not meet federal carbon monoxide standards. RFG is sold in areas that violate clean air rules for ground-level ozone. Some areas of the country are required to sell a mix of those two fuels depending on the severity of their pollution.

Refiners say dozens of different fuel specifications have strained the nation's delivery system, helping to drive gasoline prices up.

Industry has been lobbying to change the RFG rules but has cautioned against any proposal that would mandate the use of specific fuel additives. Calls by several states and action in Congress to ban the oxygenate methyl tertiary butyl ether have further complicated the picture, since the only practical alternative to meeting the current rule is the use of fuel ethanol.

Industry says ethanol is not as easy to handle as MTBE and may not be available in enough quantities to meet the needs of large markets outside the Midwest, such as California.

EPA recently denied California's request to waive the oxygenate standard for clean fuels (OGJ Online, June 12, 2001).

The latest legislation is not supported by the industry because of the oxygenate standard requirement. Under the plan, refiners would have to sell fuel that contained at least 2.7 wt % oxygen in the winter to meet oxy-fuel rules. And in the summer, a 2 wt % standard would be put in place to meet RFG requirements.

The plan would also require that low-sulfur diesel rules be put in place by 2006 with a 15 ppm standard with no phase-in period, as now directed by EPA.

Other than Hastert, it is uncertain how much support the bill will receive from other House leaders. Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), the House's point man on energy issues, opposes fuel ethanol mandates. But the political clout of Hastert and a bipartisan group of Midwest lawmakers may prove too formidable.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) is a strong fuel ethanol supporter and has indicated that streamlining RFG rules is a priority. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, plans hearings June 21 on the issue.

The White House energy policy blueprint also calls on EPA to consider retooling RFG rules, but the agency says lawmakers must rewrite clean air legislation if it is to comply fully with that request.

Contact Maureen Lorenzetti at maureenl@ogjonline.com

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