Ag secretary: U.S. should boost ethanol blend in gasoline sooner not later

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

WASHINGTON -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the government should move quickly to increase the amount of ethanol allowed in gasoline.

Ethanol producers asked the Environmental Protection Agency last week to increase the amount of ethanol that refiners can blend with gasoline from a maximum of 10 percent to 15 percent, which could boost the demand for the renewable fuel additive by as much as 6 billion gallons a year. However, automobile and small engine manufacturers have said there's no certainty yet that such an increase will not harm engines and fuel lines.

"We can, we believe, move fairly quickly to move the blend rate to 12 or 13 percent in the interim," Vilsack told a friendly audience of farmers Monday, adding that it could eventually be boosted to 15 percent or 20 percent.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she also supports raising the cap after a separate speech to the group.

"It seems to me we should be able to do that," she said.

It is up to the EPA to lift the cap. Adora Andy, the EPA's press secretary, said in a statement Friday that the agency will review the ethanol producers' request and "act based on the best available science."

The ethanol producers contend that raising the maximum amount of ethanol allowed in a gallon of gasoline would increase demand for the fuel additive and create thousands of new jobs as the industry -- which has been reeling in today's tough economic times -- boosts production.

Vilsack and Pelosi spoke to the National Farmers Union annual convention Monday in Arlington, Va.

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