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Sensenbrenner Blasts Higher Ethanol Blends in Editorial Piece
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 07/08/2011

A Wisconsin congressman is continuing to express his opposition toward proposed mandates that would require gasoline for newer vehicles in the United States to use 15-percent ethanol. In an editorial for the National Review this week, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner said last January's waiver by the Environmental Protection Agency to allow E15 to be sold for vehicles with model years 2001 and later was made on behest of the ethanol industry, but says it will come at the expense of American drivers.

"I sent letters to the major U.S. automakers to investigate how E15 would affect people's cars," Sensenbrenner wrote. "Overwhelmingly the automakers complained that E15 would void warranties, damage engines, and lower fuel efficiency. To date, I have received 12 responses, and all 12 oppose EPA's waiver."

The Brookfield Republican cited a response from Honda that said 'vehicle engines were not designed or built to accommodate the higher concentrations of ethanol' and that there's potential for engine failure.

He also said the EPA did not approve E15 for small engines, but small engine manufacturers are worried that E15 will find its way from gas pumps to small engines.

"EPA's only solution to consumer confusion is to impose more regulations and rules on manufacturers and business owners," the piece said. "The decision to increase the allowable blend appears to have limited environmental benefits with huge costs for American consumers"

Sensenbrenner also claims the government has artificially propped up the ethanol industry with a 45-cent- a-gallon subsidy to oil refiners and a 54 cent-per-gallon tariff on imported ethanol. He says the ethanol lobby claimed the biofuel would reduce our dependence on unstable sources of oil and reduce greenhouse gas.

"After 6 billion dollars per year of taxpayer money, ethanol has achieved neither goal. Instead, research and analysis shows that increased ethanol production raises the cost of food and emits more greenhouse gases than fossil fuels," he wrote. "In southeastern Wisconsin, we already have to deal with the consequences of the EPA-imposed reformulated gas. Despite history's warnings, the EPA has allowed E15 to be widely available in the marketplace."

The EPA has been laying the groundwork for general sale of E15 fuel following a decision in January approving it for use in light-duty vehicles made since 2001. Prior to that decision and a similar one last year covering slightly newer vehicles, E15 has only been approved for use in flex-fuel vehicles that are specially designed to handle it.

Sensenbrenner introduced legislation earlier this year that would block the EPA from granting an increase to the mandatory ethanol blend from 10 percent to 15 percent. The issues has also prompted a lawsuit by automobile and small engine manufacturers who say the EPA violated federal regulations meant to ensure that new fuels and fuel additives cause no engine failures or problems.

In other ethanol news, a deficit-cutting deal brokered between ethanol opponents and farm-state senators would end broad subsidies for the industry but preserve smaller, targeted tax breaks designed to help biofuels flourish. The compromise, announced Thursday, would repeal the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit starting August 1 if Congress approves it. The credit, which is set to expire at the end of the year, gives blenders 45 cents for every gallon of ethanol they mix with gasoline, at a monthly cost of more than $400 million to the U.S. Treasury.

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