Anti-ethanol amendments were approved by the U.S. House of Representatives as they completed work on their version of the continuing resolution to cover spending for the balance of the current Fiscal Year (FY) - 2011.
An amendment to deny EPA the ability to move forward with making E15 available in the marketplace was approved 285-136, with 206 Republicans and 79 Democrats voting in favor and 31 Republicans and 105 Democrats voting against it.
Rep. John Sullivan (R-Okla.) said the amendment was needed as some 60% of the vehicles currently on the road today could be negatively affected by an ethanol blend above the current E10. "The EPA has completely ignored calls from lawmakers, industry, environmental and consumer groups to address important safety issues raised by the 50 percent increase in the ethanol mandate issued over the past year," Sullivan said, adding the delay for the rest of the FY would allow Congress to address questions relative to consumer misfueling, etc.
Another amendment Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) was approved 261-158. That amendment would bar subsidies for installation of new blender pumps that can dispense varying levels of ethanol fuel. The Flake amendment calls for not paying USDA employees working on blender pump installations and would block the EPA from directing any funds to blender pump installations.
Ethanol backers reacted negatively to the House votes, with Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis saying the amendment to bar E15 "picks politics over science. EPA's consideration of E15 was based on a more exhaustive study and collection of data than any of the 11 previously approved petitions. No other fuel mix has been tested more."
Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, said the fact that the House action should be a "clarion call" to the ethanol industry, and that the industry will have to work very hard to meet opposition in Congress.
But ethanol backers are also counting on opposition in the Senate to the overall package and the ethanol amendments, with RFA's Dinneen predicting President Obama would veto the package.
Still, it underscores how things appear to have changed for the ethanol industry in the current congressional landscape aimed at cutting government spending.