Iowa Public Television

 

More states join California in MTBE ban

posted on March 31, 2000


THE PLANS OF SENATE MAJORITY LEADER TRENT LOTT OF MISSISSIPPI TO TEMPORARILY ROLL BACK OR SUSPEND FEDERAL GAS TAXES ARE BEING ROUNDLY CRITICIZED, EVEN BY MEMBERS OF HIS OWN REPUBLICAN PARTY. LOTT REASONED THE ACTIONS WERE NEEDED IF GAS PRICES AT THE PUMP HIT TWO-DOLLARS A GALLON. CRITICS POINT OUT THOSE TAXES ARE EARMARKED FOR HIGHWAY AND MASS TRANSIT PROJECTS. A TEMPORARY REPEAL, THEY ARGUE, WOULD DO LITTLE IF ANYTHING TO LOWER GAS PRICES, AND WOULD COST BILLIONS OF DOLLARS TO STATE HIGHWAY AND ROAD FUNDS.

EVEN AS FEDERAL POLICY-MAKERS PONDER THE INS AND OUTS OF PETRO-POLITICS, FARM STATE LAWMAKERS ARE MOVING TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF WHAT THEY SEE AS MARKET OPPORTUNITIES FOR THEIR CORN-GROWING CONSTITUENTS. HIGH GAS PRICES AND THE PENDING ELIMINATION OF AN ALTERNATIVE FUEL RIVAL ARE THE CATALYSTS.

THE CONCERN OVER THE HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONSEQUENCES OF THE GASOLINE ADDITIVE MTBE ...HAS FUELED DEBATE IN MANY FARM STATES TO BRING ETHANOL TO THE FUEL FOREFRONT.

FOR EXAMPLE, THE NEBRASKA LEGISLATURE DEBATED FOR TWO DAYS OVER WHETHER TO REQUIRE ALL GAS STATIONS WITH MORE THAN TWO STORAGE TANKS TO OFFER ETHANOL-BLENDED GAS BY OCT. 1. THE MEASURE FAILED, BUT THE BILL DID BAN THE INCLUSION OF MTBE IN FUEL.

IN ILLINOIS, WHERE MTBE IS BLAMED FOR CONTAMINATION OF 3 WELLS ... STATE LAWMAKERS WANT TO END THE USE OF MTBE BY JAN. 1. THAT'S TWO YEARS EARLIER THAN THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY ANTICIPATES IMPOSING A BAN NATIONWIDE.

IN ANTICIPATION OF INCREASED DEMAND FOR CORN-BASED ETHANOL, IOWA FARMERS ARE CONSIDERING PLANS TO BUILD TWELVE NEW ETHANOL PLANTS. THAT'S IN ADDITION TO FIVE ALREADY UP AND RUNNING IN THE STATE.

WITH WHAT SEEMS TO BE A CERTAIN EVENTUAL OUSTING OF THE SUSPECTED CARCINOGEN MTBE ... THE DOOR COULD BE WIDE OPEN FOR ALTERNATIVE ADDITIVES. A STUDY PREPARED BY A CONSULTING FIRM IN NEW JERSEY ESTIMATES, IF THE ADDITIVE IS ETHANOL ... DEMAND FOR THE CORN-BASED PRODUCT COULD REACH NEARLY 3.2 (b) BILLION GALLONS BY THE YEAR 2004.

Tags: agriculture biofuels California ethanol news renewable fuels