House votes to thwart ethanol expansion

Several environmental groups also oppose expanded ethanol use.

“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,” Sullivan said in a statement Saturday.

“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,” he added.

But a major ethanol industry trade group called Growth Energy slammed the amendment, along with approval of Rep. Jeff Flake’s (R-Ariz.) separate amendment that blocks funding for construction of ethanol blender pumps and storage facilities.

“The Sullivan provision picks politics over science. EPA’s consideration of E15 was based on a more exhaustive study and collection of data than any of the 11 previously approved petitions. No other fuel mix has been tested more,” said Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis in a statement.

“With all the turmoil going on in the Middle East and elsewhere, the House of Representatives just voted to stop the only viable alternative to foreign oil: ethanol,” he added.

But Stephen Brown of the refiner Tesoro Corp., which opposes the higher ethanol blends, believes the amendment signals a shift in Capitol Hill’s stance toward the fuel.

“The adoption of the Sullivan amendment hopefully signals a new trend in rational thinking on what the proper role is for corn ethanol in our country's renewable fuel mix,” said Brown, a top lobbyist and counsel for the Texas-based refiner.

“This was not a vote against corn ethanol per se but more an indication that folks want to see a whole lot more analysis and thought before we fall further into the corn abyss,” he added.