A vote in Congress last Friday on an ammendment demonstrated a widely recognized truism. Support for corn ethanol subsidies is strong in states that grow a lot of corn, and is weak elsewhere. This support crosses party lines and includes people who would otherwise be against government subsidies.
Fridays vote was on an ammendment to HR1 by Representative Sullivan which would defund implementation of an EPA decision titled “Partial Grant and Partial Denial of Clean Air Act Waiver Application Submitted by Growth Energy To Increase the Allowable Ethanol Content of Gasoline to 15 Percent”. In other words, the ammendment would block an increase in the use of Ethanol.
The measure passed by a large majority (285-136) not split by party lines. Given the deep party line divisions in modern American government, this is rather surprising. That is, until you plot the vote on a map, showing the districts of those who voted for or against this ammendment, as the GovTrack website has done.
The map published by GovTrack shows that those who voted against the ammendment primarily represent districts with a lot of agriculture, primarily growing corn. Voting against this ammendment means being in support of increased ethanol use.
The EPA decision in question was a result by a March 2009 proposal by Growth Energy and 54 other ethanol manufacturers to increase the allowed ethanol content of gasoline. Currently gasoline is limited to 10% ethanol content. EPA’s November 2010 decision partially grants the waiver request by Growth Energy. It allows sales of gasoline containing up to 15% ethanol for light-duty vehicles manufactured after 2007, but denies the waiver request (sale of ethanol-laden gasoline) for vehicles manufactured before 2000.
The waiver is prescribed by the Clean Air Act for fuel additives. It requires manufacturers to demonstrate the additive will not harm engines, or cause engines to fail to conform with environmental regulations. The EPA regulation would require labeling of E15 pumps to mitigate the chance of confusion and “misfueling” of vehicles which aren’t allowed to be fueled with ethanol-laden gasoline.
The EPA decision focuses soley on the potential of harm to engines. It does not include broader concerns like the effect on food prices of diverting food production to make fuel. Nor does it cover the bad energy return on investment when corn is turned into ethanol.
Partial Grant and Partial Denial of Clean Air Act Waiver Application Submitted by Growth Energy To Increase the Allowable Ethanol Content of Gasoline to 15 Percent
H.Amdt. 156: An amendment numbered 94 printed in the… to H.R. 1: Full-Year Continuing Appropriations… (Vote On Amendment)
The geography of ethanol’s support in Congress
Does the Clean Air Act help or harm the economy?