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March 20, 2000

Ryan Praises Federal Ban On MTBE, Wants Congress To Continue Ethanol Requirement

SPRINGFIELD - Governor George H. Ryan today praised the federal government's decision to phase out the pollution-causing gasoline additive MTBE, but urged Congress to keep federal laws in place that require the use of Illinois-produced ethanol as a gasoline additive.

Ryan reacted positively to an announcement by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol Browner that the EPA will "significantly reduce or eliminate" the use of MTBE as an "oxygenate" and octane booster in gasoline. The MTBE additive helps reduce smog from vehicles, but it has been linked to groundwater pollution in 25 Illinois communities, as well as New York, California and other states.

"I applaud the U.S. EPA for moving to ban MTBE. Studies have shown that MTBE is not safe," Ryan said. "It helps reduce smog but contaminates ground water supplies. That's a trade-off we can't afford to make."

However, Browner also said the EPA would support a broader change in federal law to repeal a clean air requirement that gasoline sold in high-smog areas include an "oxygenate" to fight pollution. Such a change would eliminate the need for any additive - including ethanol - from the nation's gasoline supply.

"Eliminating the oxygenate requirement from federal law would be bad for Illinois farmers, bad for our environment and bad for Illinois," Ryan said. "Ethanol is a win-win solution. It's a renewable fuel, fights air pollution and doesn't contaminate water supplies. I urge Congress to reject the EPA's proposal and to stick with ethanol."

Illinois is the largest producer of ethanol in the United States. More than 270 million bushels of Illinois corn is used to produce ethanol - about 50 percent of the total production in the United States. More than 160 million bushels of corn are used to produce ethanol for the Chicago area, where 99 percent of the gasoline sold contains ethanol.

"Ethanol is a significant market for Illinois farmers, adding an estimated 20 cents to the price of a bushel of corn," said state Agriculture Director Joe Hampton. "Illinois produces about 678 million gallons of ethanol annually from 274 million bushels of corn, more than any other state in the country. These economic benefits, coupled with ethanol's demonstrated environmental benefits, make it very important to farmers and consumers."


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