Ethanol fuel targeted by legislators, administration

6:47 PM, Feb 4, 2013   |    comments
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AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - The Maine legislature will decide whether to restrict or even eliminate the use of ethanol in gasoline in the state. 

A legislator from Turner and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection are both submitting ethanol bills.

The federal government has required ethanol in gas for the past six years. But the fuel has caused equipment problems, especially for small engines such as chain saws, outboard motors and yard tractors. 

Rep. Jeff Timberlake (R-Turner) says that's one reason he wants to reduce the amount of ethanol in the fuel, or eliminate it completely. Timberlake is a farmer, and says he's equally concerned about the cost of food and the added cost to farmers for feed, all driven by the use of so much corn to make ethanol. 

Timberlake says some studies suggest the average American home is paying twenty to forty dollars more a week for food because of ethanol.

During the George W. Bush administration, the federal government passed the law to require ethanol as a way to replace a certain amount of foreign oil. But the Maine Energy Marketers Association says the U.S. is now producing significantly more oil from domestic sources, making that "energy independence" argument no longer valid. 

And Jamie Py of the MEMA also says that corn-based ethanol appears to have no environmental benefit, either. The Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) agreed with that statement, and the NRCM says it may not even take a position on the issue or get involved with the debate over corn-based ethanol.

Rep. Timberlake says he believes he has broad support for the two proposals in the Legislature. Meanwhile the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is preparing a bill that would ban a new 15% blend of ethanol being mandated by the federal government. 

Both the DEP and managers of power equipment businesses in Maine say equipment manufacturers won't warranty power equipment that uses 15% ethanol, because the fuel has the potential to cause damage or rapid deterioration to some components. The DEP says it believes 15% ethanol would not be good for Maine or Maine businesses. 

However, the Energy Marketers Association says federal requirements for ethanol may not be easy for Maine to overcome. They say current law requires states to use ethanol, or force suppliers to purchase renewable fuel credits from the government-potentially adding to the cost of fuel.

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