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April 18, 2000

Governor Urges Support Of Federal Legislation Promoting Ethanol

SPRINGFIELD - Governor George H. Ryan today submitted written testimony to a US Senate subcommittee urging support of federal legislation designed to protect the environment and promote the use corn-based ethanol as a gasoline additive.

Ryan submitted the testimony to the US Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Research, Nutrition, and General Legislation chaired by United States Senator Peter Fitzgerald.

"I want to thank Senator Fitzgerald for his efforts on this important issue," Ryan said. "I wholeheartedly support the MTBE Elimination Act that he has introduced in the US Senate."

Senator Fitzgerald has introduced the MTBE Elimination Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Durbin which would phase out the use of the fuel oxygenate MTBE over three years while maintaining the oxygenate requirements included in the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. The legislation, S 2233, also calls for pump labeling to ensure that consumers know when MTBE is used as a fuel additive.

"At a time when commodity prices are at historic lows, the use of ethanol is a critical economic tool for our farmers," Ryan said. "Approximately 600 million bushels of corn are used in the production of ethanol throughout the US, increasing the price of corn between 30 and 48 cents per bushel."

US Senator Peter Fitzgerald, who sits on the US Senate Agriculture Committee called today's hearing in response to a proposal made by the US Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Browner and the US Department of Agriculture Secretary Glickman which outlined a legislative framework to significantly reduce or eliminate MTBE as a fuel additive.

The federal reformulated gasoline program (RFG) requires that an oxygenate is added to gasoline to reduce air pollution. However, the Federal proposal would include 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.

"I want to recognize US EPA Administrator Browner and US Department of Agriculture Secretary Glickman for acknowledging the harmful effects of MTBE," Ryan added. "But, I must also express my concerns regarding the possible elimination of the oxygenate requirement from the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990.

"The oxygenate requirement has helped clean the air in our urban areas and there are environmentally beneficial oxygenate blends, in particular those using ethanol, which have been a great success in the Chicago and Milwaukee areas and can be a model for the rest of the country."

The MTBE additive helps reduce smog from vehicles, but it has been linked to groundwater pollution according to the testimony of Illinois EPA Director Tom Skinner. "Public water supplies in other areas have been forced to close their wells due to MTBE contamination. In Illinois, even though MTBE has not been widely used as compared with some other states, it has been detected in 26 public water supplies.

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.

Illinois Department of Agriculture Director Joe Hampton testified about the importance of the ethanol industry to Illinois farmers.

"With Illinois farmers facing some of the lowest commodity prices in years, there needs to be an assurance for ethanol in the future. If ethanol or the oxygenate requirement is eliminated, Illinois farmers would forfeit a market of at least 160 million gallons of ethanol and 70 million bushels of grain usage. That could translate into investment losses by the ethanol industry in excess of one billion dollars, the loss of 800 jobs in ethanol plants, 4,000 industry-related jobs and a significant decrease in the national market price of corn."

"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."


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