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Home / U.S. House budget-cutters target ethanol
WASHINGTON - Republicans budget-cutters in the House are targeting ethanol, putting Iowa's lawmakers on the defensive.
Wide-open deliberations on a $1.2 trillion bill that would fund the federal government this year resulted in hundreds of amendments from lawmakers seeking to eliminate programs they don't like.
Rep. John Sullivan of Oklahoma, a Republican member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, sponsored an amendment that would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency to spend any federal funds on the “E15 waivers” this year.
The EPA decided last month to allow vehicles to use gasoline that is blended so it contains 15 percent ethanol. But Sullivan said raising the amount of ethanol allowed in gasoline from 10 percent to 15 percent could hurt vehicle motors.
“My amendment is about consumer safety, plain and simple,” Sullivan said. “The EPA's E15 waiver decisions could adversely impact up to 60 percent of cars on the road today - leading to consumer confusion at the pump and possible engine failure in the cars they drive.”
Sullivan's amendment is supported by 15 industry groups who seem more concerned about ethanol's impact on corn prices and earnings than the safety of the additive.
The coalition includes the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, American Meat Institute, American Petroleum Institute, Grocery Manufacturers Association and the National Chicken Co. They sent House members a letter this week saying “protection of the environment and the nation's motorists must take precedence over the politics of biofuels.”
Sullivan's amendment was expected to come for a vote late Friday.
Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., also has taken aim at ethanol with an amendment that would block funding for installing blender pumps at gas stations that would be used to carry ethanol-blended fuels.
“I've long thought that the ethanol industry should be able to stand on its own - not be propped up by federal subsidies,” Flake said.
Ethanol supporters, including the National Corn Growers Association and the Renewable Fuels Association, lobbied against the amendments sponsored by Sullivan and Flake.
It's also opposed by Iowa's lawmakers.
“The EPA's announcement to expand the use of E15 was a step in the right direction for Iowa's homegrown fuels and toward reducing our dependence on foreign oil,” said Rep. David Loebsack, D-Iowa. “Instead of prohibiting this progress, we must work to further America's homegrown biofuels industry.”
Even if ethanol supporters defeat the Sullivan and Flake amendments, the spending bill itself contains language to block the EPA's climate change programs that could hurt the agency's ability to implement its renewable fuel standard program.
Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, tried to introduce an amendment this week that would reinstate the EPA's authority, but it was rejected on parliamentary rules.
The spending bill, known as a continuing resolution, aims to cut at least $61 billion from the federal budget and would eliminate or trim many programs that are popular among Democrats.
Likely to be approved by the Republican-controlled House, the spending bill must be considered by the Senate, which has a Democratic majority and is likely to reject it. But if Congress does not approve a spending bill by March 4, the nation could face a government shutdown.
- By Ana Radelat, Capitol News Connection