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May 13, 2002
Senate Ethanol Plan Stirs Conflicting Reactions
By Eric Noe
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Environmentalists and oil companies often find themselves on the opposite sides of the fence when Washington tackles a major legislative issue.
But that was not the case with a bill passed by the U.S. Senate on April 25 that would triple the use of ethanol as a gasoline additive over the next decade. Both environmentalists and Big Oil -- not to mention farmers -- have been celebrating the legislation as a landmark in the country's evolution toward cleaner energy produced from domestic, renewable sources like corn or sugar.
"This is a huge win for corn growers and the coalition of agriculture, oil, ethanol and environmental groups that came together to forge this historic agreement," Tim Hume, president of the National Corn Growers Association, said after the vote.
But ethanol -- a cleaner burning alternative to MTBE, an additive some states banned due to ground water contamination -- has not won universal support.
Some consumer advocates and state officials say the new mandates could lead to higher prices at the gas pump.
Farm state lawmakers, however, who make up the biggest voting block in Congress, and the powerful farm and oil lobbies are pushing hard for inclusion of the Senate's ethanol mandate in the version of the bill that will be presented to President Bush (news - web sites).
The Bush administration has also voiced support for the promotion of renewable fuels. If, as expected, the energy bill sent to the Capitol leaves the Senate's ethanol proposal intact, Bush is expected to sign it. The Senate quashed the last challenge to the ethanol measure by a vote of 88-11.
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