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USDA Head Favors Increase of Ethanol Blend in Gasoline

March 10, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. --- U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack this week expressed support for an increase in the ethanol-gasoline blend rate to 12 or 13 percent, saying such a move would require minimal scientific review, Reuters reported. 

An ethanol trade group, Growth Energy, last week submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency a request to boost the ethanol blend rate to as high as 15 percent from the current cap of 10 percent, according to Reuters. The EPA has 270 days to review, collect public comment and make a decision on the request. 

"We'd love to see 15 percent," Vilsack told reporters. "Right now my focus is on 12, 13 percent because I think it is doable more quickly. Our hope is that EPA can come to the same conclusion we have, which is that this is something that can be done within existing regulations without a great deal of time spent reviewing the science." 

The EPA will need to determine whether a higher blend would harm emission control systems in vehicles, Reuters reported. 

Vilsack said he has already spoken with EPA head Lisa Jackson and her staff to encourage the agency "to take aggressive action on the blend rate."

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