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Bad time to kill E15, retired Navy leader says

DANIEL LOOKER 02/21/2011 @ 3:52pm Business Editor

On a day when Libya teeters on the brink of civil war and cuts oil production, Retired Vice Admiral Denny McGinn takes little comfort from an announcement by the remaining members of OPEC that it will increase oil supplies if needed.

“We’re not in charge of our energy future. OPEC is in charge of a huge portion of our economy,” McGinn told Agriculture.com Monday.

His concern about America’s dependence on oil from unstable regions of the world is one reason the former commander of the Navy’s Third Fleet recently signed on as a member of the steering committee of the 25 x ’25 Alliance, a coalition of almost 1,000 groups that favor getting 25% of the nation’s energy from renewable sources by 2025. The California-based Third Fleet works with ships headed to the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf, protecting the fragile supply line of much of the world’s petroleum.

McGinn and other leaders of 25 x ’25 criticized a vote in the House last week that would kill, at least for this year, any implementation of a 15% blend of ethanol in gasoline (E15) by the EPA.

Among scores of amendments to the House’s 2011 spending bill that cuts more than $60 billion from last year’s level were two that shore up the so-called blend wall that currently limits ethanol to 10% of the market.

One, sponsored by Representative John Sullivan (R-OK) stops the EPA from spending money to implement E15, which the agency has already approved for cars built in the last decade. The other, sponsored by Representative Jeff Flake (R-AZ) prevents the USDA from spending funds to help retailers install blender pumps, which would allow consumers to choose the level of ethanol in their gasoline. Early Saturday morning the House voted 285-136 to block E15 and 261-158 in favor of Flake’s amendment.

"This is a wrong-headed vote because any concerns about any impact of higher ethanol blends have been answered," said the Alliance’s co-chair, Read Smith, who is also a former President of the National Association of Conservation Districts.

"The vote also negatively impact's the nation's economy, our balance of payments and public health by further increasing our dependence on oil and exposure to toxic emissions associated with gasoline production and use," Smith said in a statement.

McGinn, and the group’s project director, Ernie Shea, are hoping cooler heads will prevail as the House negotiates with the Senate and the Obama Administration over a bill which is certain to cut federal spending as leaders from both parties tackle the federal deficit. The current stopgap spending bill, or continuing resolution, expires on March 4.

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