Farmers’ groups and congressmen unveil bill to ban MTBE

Two congressmen, together with a number of farmers’ groups, have unveiled legislation designed to ban the fuel additive methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) and promote renewable ethanol in its place.

The Clean Air and Water Preservation Act of 2001 would begin to address a current weakness in a forward-looking, national energy policy by developing renewable energy, and would address reports of the harmful effects of MTBE on water supplies, say its supporters.

“This bill recognises that cleaner air does not have to come at the expense of cleaner water,” said Greg Ganske, a Republican Congressman from Iowa, one of the members of Congress unveiling the bill. “This bill addresses the harms caused by MTBE and does what our current national energy policy fails to do: it focuses on the development of renewable fuels, like ethanol. Ethanol use will also increase the market for corn: an economic plus for Iowa’s farm economy.”

However, in a recent speech to the Clean Fuels 2001 conference in Texas, a United States Department of Energy official warned that banning MTBE would likely have serious repercussions. The consequences include higher fuel prices across the US, and a reduction in air quality, said the official. He also noted that recent legislation affecting gasoline specifications including low sulphur requirements, tighter toxics restrictions, and several regional fuel requirements, would be significantly more difficult and expensive to comply with should MTBE be banned.

“The Department of Energy is right – we believe banning MTBE would have far reaching negative consequences for both consumers and refiners,” said Tom Adams, President of the Oxygenated Fuels Association (OFA) (see related story). “It’s a lose-lose proposition.”

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