20101013 oil ethanol 35
An oil well sits in the middle of a corn field near New Haven, Ill. Higher levels of ethanol for gasoline are to be allowed in newer cars. - 


BILL RADKE: The EPA today is expected to announce an increase
in the amount of ethanol allowed in motor fuel. Environmentalists and some others oppose that increase. Reporter Janet Babin joins us live. Good morning, Janet.

JANET BABIN: Good morning, Bill.

RADKE: First of all, how much of an ethanol increase are we talking about here?

BABIN: 10 to 15 percent in cars manufactured since 2007. The ethanol industry says this kind of a jump is not going to harm engine performance in newer cars. But oil refiners are concerned that this may leave them exposed to liability for possible engine damage. Ethanol is a solvent that some say can harm things like catalytic converters.

RADKE: And I would think this would be a victory for environmental groups?

BABIN: You would think, but it's actually just the opposite. Many are upset about this. They say increased production of ethanol can make less land available for wildlife habitat and harm water quality. It also can make animal feed more expensive and raise food prices. Remember, ethanol is corn based.

RADKE: Right. And how does the ethanol industry respond to those concerns?

BABIN: Well the industry says production is actually good for the environment because it reduced imported fuel oil and is renewable. They also argue that this is an industry that's creating new jobs.

RADKE: OK, so as a buyer of gas, Janet, how do I know if I'm buying gasoline with ethanol in it now?

BABIN: You might not know, Bill, because it varies by states. And some states don't even require that fuel be labeled if it has ethanol in it. We're expecting today that a more uniform labeling program could also be announced by the EPA.

RADKE: That's Janet Babin reporting live. Thanks Janet.

BABIN: Thank you, Bill.