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Ethanol group: cutting E15 hurts U.S. energy security

Leaders of Growth Energy said Thursday that stopping EPA
from writing gas pump labels and rules for 15% ethanol blends (E15) is the
wrong thing to do when U.S. national security is threatened by oil supply
interruptions in the Middle East and Africa.

They called on the U.S. Senate to reject an amendment
sponsored by Representative John Sullivan (R-OK) that stops EPA from spending
this fiscal year on implementing E15 for the rest of this fiscal year that ends
in October. It was part of the House bill passed last week that trims federal
spending by some $61 billion from 2010 levels.

“This amendment doesn’t save much money. It’s not about
balancing the budget. It’s about lining the pockets of special interests,” said
Tom Buis, Growth Energy’s CEO during a press conference Thursday.

It’s aimed at stopping the growth of ethanol use in the
nation’s fuel supply, Buis said. His group argues that higher blends would increase
U.S. energy independence, just as oil prices have passed $100 a barrel and
threaten the economic recovery. And it would generate jobs and reduce
greenhouse gases.

Growth Energy president and COO, Jim Nussle, said the
current crisis is the result of 40 years without a coherent energy policy that
would reduce U.S. dependence on imported oil. Nussle, a former Iowa Republican
Congressman who chaired the House Budget Committee and later headed the Office
of Management and Budget under President George W. Bush, said he shares the
current concern over the federal deficit. He calls it dependence on foreign

But the U.S. can’t depend on foreign oil, either, which costs
the nation $300 billion a year, he said. 
“You have to take on both.”

Growth Energy Co-chairman, retired General Wesley Clark,
said that the agricultural community needs to reach out to Congress to show
support for expanding ethanol. “I hope your readers will understand that their
voice is important,” he said.

“This is a very significant national security problem. We’ve
got to move forward, now,” he said.

In a statement after the vote on his amendment last week,
Representative Sullivan said his amendment protects consumers.

“My amendment ensures consumer safety, plain and
simple.  The EPA has completely ignored calls from lawmakers, industry,
environmental and consumer groups to address important safety issues raised by
the 50% increase in the ethanol mandate issued over the past year. 
Putting E15 into our general fuel supply could adversely impact up to 60% of
cars on the road today– leading to consumer confusion at the pump and possible
engine failure in the cars they drive,” Sullivan said.

Buis counters that EPA’s scientific testing of E15
shows no problems with the higher blend and that the EPA labeling is intended
to avoid any problems with older cars that don’t have EPA approval to use the
higher blends. And the amendment would mandate that 90% of gasoline continue to
come from petroleum, he said.

Sullivan’s district includes Bartlesville, where the
oil company, ConocoPhilips is a major employer, and Tulsa, once known as “the
oil capital of the world.”

Growth Energy, formed in part to counter bad
publicity against ethanol, has a full plate these days.

Shortly before its press conference, Thursday,
former President Bill Clinton said at the USDA’s Agricultural Outlook
Conference that the U.S. needs to become energy independent but not in a way
that causes food riots in poor nations.

The National Corn Growers Association responded to
that challenge.

“New reports show that the rising cost of oil, not ethanol
production, is a major cause of increased food prices,” the group’s president,
Bart Schott said in a statement. “With the continuing unrest in the Middle East
and Northern Africa, it is imperative that we continue to support a home-grown
fuel industry that helps keep our country safe and creates jobs.  The
American farmer is very aware of the world’s rising demand for corn, and we
will continue to meet those needs.”







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