The EPA’s decision to allow E15 ethanol in public pumps has been something of a lesson in the way politics can trump common sense. The decision was motivated by intense pressure brought to bear by the ethanol industry, which is facing a serious problem in the form of a “blend wall.” The industry first tried to get the EPA to approve the 15-percent ethanol blend before research was complete, and the agency’s approvals came first for 2007 model-year and later vehicles, and was expanded shortly thereafter to 2001 and later models. In the meantime, a number of industries have come out against E15, suing the EPA to stop the approval and calling for congressional hearings. Now, with few reasons left to support E15 outside of propping up the staggering farm-state ethanol industry and huge portions of the economy coming out against it, the House has voted “overwhelmingly” to ban E15 from America’s gas pumps.
The Detroit News reports that two separate amendments concerning ethanol were approved and attached to the House version of an ongoing funding resolution required to keep government funded. The first would deny funding to any EPA efforts to implement its E15 approval, the second would end a tax subsidy so fuel stations could install pumps that can dispense varying amounts of gasoline and ethanol. Bill sponsor Rep John Sullivan explains
The EPA has completely ignored calls from lawmakers, industry, environmental and consumer groups to address important safety issues raised by the 50 percent increase in the ethanol mandate issued over the past year. Putting E15 into our general fuel supply could adversely impact up to 60 percent of cars on the road today leading to consumer confusion at the pump and possible engine failure in the cars they drive,
Between these bills and the pending lawsuits against the EPA’s approval of E15, the rollout of the fuel blend could well be dead on arrival. Of course, the Senate still must approve similar measures, and farm-state senators could well scuttle the House’s legislative efforts to stop E15. Still, the biofuel lobby is becoming increasingly marginalized by the widening attacks on the legislative and legal fronts. And since the subsidies underlying the whole “blend wall” problem were only barely approved for one more year, we could be moving into the end of times for America’s wasteful experiment with corn-powered cars.