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Nation/World

November 16, 2013

EPA proposes reducing ethanol in fuel

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration yesterday proposed to reduce the amount of ethanol in the nation’s fuel supply for the first time, acknowledging that the biofuel law championed by both parties in 2007 is not working as well as expected.

While the proposal highlights the government’s struggle to ramp up production of homegrown biofuels that are cleaner-burning than gasoline, it is unlikely to mean much for consumers at the pump.

The change would reduce by almost 3 billion gallons the amounts of ethanol and other biofuels blended into gasoline in 2014 than the law requires.

The 2007 law tried to address global warming, reduce dependence on foreign oil and prop up the rural economy by requiring oil companies to blend billions of gallons of biofuels into their gasoline each year. But politicians who wrote the law didn’t anticipate fuel economy to improve as much as it has in recent years, which reduced demand for gasoline.

Meanwhile, next-generation biofuels, made from agricultural waste such as wood chips and corncobs, have not taken off as quickly as Congress required and the administration expected.

President Barack Obama has championed biofuels since his days representing Illinois in the Senate, and his administration has resisted previous calls to lower biofuel volumes or repeal the law.

EPA officials said they were still committed to alternative fuels as part of a comprehensive energy strategy. If the EPA stuck to the volumes mandated by law, the amount of biofuel required would generate more ethanol than many engines can safely handle, officials said.

“We have made great progress in recent years, and EPA continues to support the RFS goal of increasing biofuel production and use,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, referring to the 2007 law called the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Biofuel supporters, however, said the proposal marked a departure for the Obama administration.

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