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House Votes to Eliminate State Ethanol Blend Mandate

This week, the House passed HB 471, sponsored by Rep. Jim Marshall (R, Beaver), by a 155-42 vote.  The bill would repeal the state’s mandate that all gasoline sold within the commonwealth’s borders contain at least 10% ethanol, when state production of cellulosic ethanol production reaches 350,000,000 gallons on an annual average. 

The provision was part of Act 78 of 2008 and was designed to incentivize cellulosic ethanol production in Pennsylvania. However, no cellulosic ethanol is being produced in the commonwealth.

Rep. Seth Grove said in a statement, “We must continue researching viable alternative energy sources to decrease our dependence on foreign oil, but the ethanol blending mandate is not effective public policy.”

Most of the gasoline now sold in the United States contains ethanol, but the exact amount varies. In general, the ethanol content of motor gasoline does not exceed 10% by volume and is referred to as E10.  Ethanol became popular for use in gasoline as a means to meet requirements in the US Clean Air Act for use of oxygenated gasoline to help the fuel burn more completely and protect the environment. 

MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether) was a favored oxygenate for a short time, but ethanol became the oxygenate of choice after the Clinton Administration took steps to ban the use of MTBE because of its toxicity and discovery in ground and drinking water. 25 states had banned the use of MTBE and refiners and distributors also pushed for its elimination.  Ethanol was widely seen as a safer replacement for MTBE.

All gasoline vehicles can use E10. Only flex-fuel vehicles can use gasoline with ethanol content greater than E15.

The bill now moves on to the Senate.