US Senator opposes carmakers on EPA gasoline-ethanol decision image

Senator Debbie Stabenow has split with U.S. automakers over whether the Environmental Protection Agency should reduce the amount of ethanol that should be used by the nation’s nearly 250 million cars and trucks next year.

Stabenow, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee and is a strong advocate of U.S. automakers, said she opposes the EPA’s decision to reduce the amount of corn-based ethanol that will be blended into the nation’s gasoline supply next year.

“I certainly want to work with the auto companies,” she said in an interview. “It’s important to have competition at the pump. The oil industry knows that they are not going to be able to stop this going forward, that once we move to cellulosic ethanol they won’t be able to hide behind the corn debate anymore and they’re suddenly going to have real competition and consumers are going to have real choice. This is about the oil industry taking their last push to stop competition.”

Automakers have lined up with the EPA and the oil industry to oppose the higher ethanol requirements and have praised the EPA decision. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents Detroit’s automakers and others, praised the EPA move.

“This is good for consumers. Automakers support using alternative fuels — after all, we’re bringing so many new alternative fuel vehicles to market. However, our concern is for the many customers who are in older vehicles that were never designed or built to withstand ethanol above E10,” spokesman Wade Newton said.

Most fuel at US gas stations now is an E10 blend — 10 % ethanol and 90 % gasoline. Because of the mandate that increasing amounts of ethanol be used despite the fact that gas consumption is flat, fuel producers were hitting a “blend wall,” in which it became likely that more E15 fuel — which is 15 % ethanol — would have to be produced.