The Environmental Protection Agency issued a long-awaited ruling Wednesday to raise the amount of ethanol allowed in gasoline to 15 percent for newer vehicles.
The agency said the higher-ethanol blend, known as E15, could be used for cars and light trucks from the 2007 model year forward. The current ethanol blend, known as E10, tops out at 10 percent.
The EPA said it would decide later this year whether to allow E15 in model years 2001 through 2006, after the Energy Department completed more tests.
Adding the corn-based fuel usually makes gasoline burn cleaner, and the ethanol industry called the EPA decision a big step in the right direction. Supporters also noted that it would help create jobs in rural America and that coming a month before the midterm elections it would be politically popular in some key states.
Opponents of the decision included the auto industry, environmentalists, cattle ranchers and food companies.
They argued that it opened the way for confusion at the pump, with E10 for some vehicles and E15 for others. Inevitably, they said, E15 would end up in some engines that can’t handle that much ethanol. That could damage emission systems and cause them to pollute more.
Some gasoline retailers warned that many outlets would opt out of the new blend because of the cost of adding new pumps and signs.
Ethanol burns hotter than gasoline, causing catalytic converters, which treat engine emissions, to break down faster. That’s why the EPA restricted the fuel to newer models, which have components in the emissions systems that are better able to adjust.
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