Officials Throw Support Behind Higher Ethanol Blend

Vilsack, Harkin both favor increasing blend to 15%.

Published on: Mar 10, 2009

Following the release of a study by North Dakota State University last week that showed increasing the blend wall for ethanol could boost job creation and economic growth, the biofuels industry has requested that the Environmental Protection Agency raise the blend wall to 15%.

Speaking at the National Farmers Union Convention in Washington Monday, both Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, expressed their support for authorizing the higher blend. Harkin has requested that the EPA move quickly to grant the waiver to allow higher blends.

"Then we've got to get Detroit to start making flexible-fuel cars," Harkin said. "If Detroit is going to keep coming in and asking for more and more money, we ought to tell them they need to do a few things. You know Dick Lugar and I have a bill in that say they have to produce 90% of their cars and light trucks must be flex-fuel by 2013. Now folks, that is not a heavy lift; Detroit could do it next year if they wanted to and I think if they're going to keep coming with their hand out, we should grab them by the wrist and tell them, do this: make all of your cars flexible-fuel. That way you can go in and use 10%, or 12% or 15, or 25 or E85 or whatever you want."

Under present regulations, only flex-fuel vehicles are authorized to use gasoline containing more than 10% ethanol. With total ethanol production rapidly approaching 10% of annual gasoline sales, this limitation is beginning to constrict ethanol markets and limit use. Vilsack said he supports the industry's request.

"We can, we believe move fairly quickly to move that rate up from 10% to maybe 12% or 13% in the interim, and then take an even further jump to 15 or 20% over the next few years," Vilsack said.