Ethanol lobby pushes for origin labels on fuel

Ethanol producers, many of whom are struggling in the economic downturn, want Congress to require gas stations to stamp country-of-origin labels on gasoline pumps.

Growth Energy, the ethanol group calling for the labels, argues that consumers may not like where some of their fuel comes from and turn to pumps that offer more homegrown, corn ethanol.

“The American people deserve to know more about the gasoline they purchase every day — where it comes from and where their hard-earned dollars ultimately go every time they fill up their cars and trucks,” said retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who is co-chairman of Growth Energy, which represents corn ethanol producers.

“The neighborhood filling station doesn’t pump neighborhood gas – it pumps a product of foreign origin that costs consumers and taxpayers billions of dollars every year,” Clark said.

The government puts origin labels on a number of products already, the ethanol industry notes, including apples and beef.

But oil companies call the idea to label gasoline a pipe dream.

“It’s breathtakingly impossible to do,” said Rayola Dougher, senior economic advisor for the American Petroleum Institute, which represents large integrated oil companies.

Refiners buy crude oil based on its chemical specification, not its origin, Dougher said. Oil from Oklahoma is mixed with oil from Saudi Arabia and other countries that have similar properties. The gasoline is then pumped through a network of pipelines, where it may be further mixed with other gasoline that may have a mix of fuel from even more countries.

Trying to figure out where the gas that gets pumped into a particular gas tank is from “can’t be done,” Dougher said.