The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality met with South Dakota business and agriculture leaders Tuesday. In such a corn-friendly state (it's the home of the Corn Palace), ethanol was a major topic, even for a congressman from Virginia. Rep. Rick Boucher, a Democrat from the Old Dominion, said he liked a proposal to increase the standard fuel blend from 10 percent ethanol to 30 percent. He explains such a move would help commercialize non-corn-based ethanol. Boucher (shown at right with Rep. Stephanie Herseth of South Dakota), also says the higher dose would require automakers to change warranties.

"If they're not willing to raise it voluntarily, we might mandate it. That idea alone was worth the trip out here," said Boucher, the subcommittee chairman.

Boucher told the committee there's a "popular assumption" of a technical limit at 10 percent; instead calling it an "artificial limit, opposed apparently in a negotiation between the auto manufacturers and the oil industry."

Boucher said he'll call scientists and automakers before a subcommittee hearing on ethanol blending later in the year. That's a showdown I'd like to hear. I wonder how older vehicles would handle increased amounts of ethanol. We know that automakers have to make special modifications to the fuel system to accept E85. Surely there's a possibility of long-term effects from fuels with blends up to 30 percent.

Testimony indicated corn-based ethanol could fulfill 10-percent requirements at about 15 billion gallons per year, which is called the "blend wall." The country would have to find other sources of ethanol to make up the difference.

[Source: Ben Shouse / Argus Leader]

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