For those keeping score in the battle between advocates and opponents of higher ethanol blends in gasoline (fuels such as E15, which is 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline), chalk one up in the "advocates" column. Earlier this week, a US federal appeals court upheld last year's decision to allow public sales of E15 and denied a request from oil and food trade groups to look at possibly reversing the decision, Reuters says.

The court backed a 2-1 decision made last August that said claims from groups like the American Petroleum Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association were "speculative." Naturally, ethanol advocacy group Growth Energy called the decision "a major victory" while opponents, including the American Automobile Association, weren't as sanguine.

Last June, the Environmental Protection Agency allowed public sales of E15 as a way to help cut foreign-oil dependency. Since then, the debate over whether higher ethanol production and use does more good or harm to the environment has intensified, as opponents say higher ethanol blends may both damage engines and trigger food price spikes and shortages. Late last year, AAA went as far as to publicly request that the government suspend E15 sales, an idea that has spread to Maine. Earlier this week, the AAA reiterated its stance that E15 sales should be withheld until more research is done, since the group worries that engines may be damaged and vehicle warranties voided by the biofuels.

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