WASHINGTON D.C. — Members of Minnesota's Congressional delegation are displeased that Obama Administration has proposed new rules that would maintain a limit on the use of corn ethanol in gasoline.
That could slow the growth of ethanol producers in Minnesota, the nation's fifth largest producer.
The widespread use of ethanol in gasoline springs from a federal law passed in 2007, when oil prices continued to tick upward, but before large scale domestic oil development in North Dakota or Pennsylvania had taken off. In passing a law creating the Renewable Fuel Standard, Congress aimed to slow the pace of oil imports by mixing more domestically grown biofuels into the nation's gasoline supply.
But the law didn't anticipate the recession, which cut back on how much Americans drive. Nor did it anticipate that people would start driving less and that cars would become more fuel efficient.
The Environmental Protection Agency's proposed new rules, announced Nov. 15, would essentially keep the amount of ethanol blended into gas where it is at 10 percent. As a result of the rules, E-85 fuel — a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline pushed by the ethanol industry and Corn belt lawmakers — is unlikely to gain mainstream acceptance.
"I don't think there's any justification for them to do this," said U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, who represents Minnesota's 7th District.
Congressman Tim Walz, D-1st District, also has been opposed to reducing the renewable fuels standard.
Peterson, the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, and the ethanol lobby, have an easy culprit to point to for the new rule: Big Oil.
"They are putting it in the hands of the oil companies," said Bob Dineen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association. "They are putting it in the hands of Exxon Mobil and saying, 'hey, you tell us how much renewable fuel you want to use.'"