Senators introduce amendment to end ethanol mandate

Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinPost Orlando, hawks make a power play Ryan: No plans to vote on Democratic gun bills after sit-in Overnight Cybersecurity: Senate narrowly rejects expanding FBI surveillance powers MORE (D-Calif.) want the bill to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline to also eliminate the corn ethanol blending mandate.

The senators introduced an amendment Friday that would remove the mandate to blend normal ethanol into gasoline but preserve other renewable fuel mandates, including those for biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol. The standard ethanol mandate is effectively a corn ethanol mandate, the sponsors said.

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“It drives up gas prices, increases food costs, damages car engines, and is harmful to the environment,” Toomey said in a statement.

Toomey specifically cited a fuel refinery owned by Delta Airlines in Trainer, Pa., as a business that has trouble complying with the corn ethanol mandate, which is supposed to increase every year.

The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed to reduce the mandate for 2014, citing smaller than expected gasoline demand.

“The federal mandate for corn ethanol is both unwise and unworkable,” Feinstein said in the statement.

“Roughly 40 percent of corn in the United States is currently used for fuel, which increases the price of food and animal feed while also damaging the environment,” she said. “Additionally, oil companies are unable to blend more corn ethanol into gasoline without causing problems for some gas stations and older automobiles.”

A diverse group of interests, including oil companies, environmentalists, car users and various businesses in food oppose the mandate for different reasons.

The Renewable Fuels Association criticized the amendment, saying it would set back the country’s environmental policy.

“The sponsors claim the so-called corn ethanol mandate drives up the price of corn, food, and gas,” Bob Dinneen, the group’s head, said in a statement.

“There is simply no truth to the notion that ethanol has driven up the price of food,” he said, adding that “ethanol has been less expensive than gas for the better part of the past four years and has helped reduce consumer pain at the pump.”