An ethanol trade group submitted a formal request to the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency March 6 to boost the allowed ethanol-to-gasoline blend rate as high as 15 per cent from the current cap of 10 per cent.
The higher blend rate would create a bigger market for ethanol, spurring production of the alternative fuel touted for reducing the country’s dependence on foreign oil and lowering climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions, Growth Energy said.
“We think this is exactly the right time to do it,” said General Wesley Clark, co-chairman of Growth Energy.
More ethanol would create as many as 136,000 new jobs and inject $24.4 billion into the American economy each year, he said.
“It will be a stimulating pulse in the American economy without the need for a stimulus bill,” Clark said.
After a period of rapid expansion, the ethanol industry has suffered from volatile prices and slumping fuel demand, leaving as much as 20 per cent of capacity shuttered and stalling other expansion plans.
The EPA has 270 days to review, collect public comment and make a decision on Growth Energy’s request. In the meantime, it could decide to allow a jump to a 12 or 13 per cent blend, the group said.
Food manufacturers and livestock and environmental groups have already lined up against the move, saying the EPA should wait until ethanol made from crop waste and grasses is commercially available.
Ethanol, which uses about a third of the U. S. corn crop, was blamed for part of last summer’s record spike in grain prices, which caused food hoarding and riots in some countries.