Vilsack: US should boost ethanol in gasoline

Welcome ethanol plant
The VeraSun ethanol plant in the southern Minnesota town of Welcome remains closed because of the company's financial problems.
MPR Photo/Mark Steil

(AP) - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the government should move quickly to increase the amount of ethanol allowed in gasoline.

Ethanol producers asked the Environmental Protection Agency last week to increase the amount of ethanol that refiners can blend with gasoline from a maximum of 10 percent to 15 percent, which could boost the demand for the renewable fuel additive by as much as 6 billion gallons a year.

However, automobile and small engine manufacturers have said there's no certainty yet that such an increase will not harm engines and fuel lines.

"We can, we believe, move fairly quickly to move the blend rate to 12 or 13 percent in the interim," Vilsack told a friendly audience of farmers on Monday, adding that it could eventually be boosted to 15 percent or 20 percent.

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It is up to the EPA to lift the cap. Adora Andy, the EPA's press secretary, said in a statement Friday that the agency will review the request and "act based on the best available science."

The ethanol producers contend that by raising the maximum amount of ethanol allowed in a gallon of gasoline, it would increase demand for the fuel additive and create thousands of new jobs as the industry -- which has been reeling in today's tough economic times - boosts production.

Vilsack spoke to the National Farmers Union annual convention Monday in Arlington, Va.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)