WASHINGTON – The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology approved a bill that requires the EPA to further study gasoline blends with 15% ethanol (E15) before approving it for consumer use.

The bill, H.R. 3199, introduced by the Committee’s Vice Chairman, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), calls for the EPA and the National Academy of Sciences to “comprehensively assess scientific and technical research on gasoline blends with 15 percent ethanol.” The Committee approved the bill by a vote of 19-7.

According to the Committee, 31 organizations, such as the American Petroleum Institute and the Milk Producers Council, signed a letter supporting the bill. In opposition to the bill’s approval are groups that support wider use of ethanol as a fuel, including the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE).

For example the RFA’s President and CEO Bob Dinneen responded to the bill with the following statement:  

"With many members of Congress complaining about the federal government impeding the ability of small businesses to create jobs, this bill would inject parochial politics into the scientifically established process of approving new fuels. In approving E15, the Department of Energy tested vehicles over millions of driving miles - the equivalent of some 4,700 round trips from Washington to Milwaukee.  To suggest more testing is needed is nothing more than a stall tactic that has but one outcome – our continued addiction to oil."

The ACE Executive Vice President Brian Jennings responded by saying the bill stands in the way of consumer fuel choice and is misleading.

This is another setback for the ethanol industry, as the U.S. government let the tax credit of $0.45 per gallon for ethanol blenders (Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit, or VEETC) expire on December 31, 2011. The government ended the federal subsidy for ethanol at that time as well.