They’re All Ears
Farm states and the environment both stand to gain from a provision in a Democratic energy bill that would require gasoline refiners to triple their use of corn-based ethanol by 2012. The provision, written by Senate majority leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), would also phase out the use of the petrochemical MTBE by 2006. Both ethanol and MTBE are additives that reduce smog by making gasoline burn more cleanly, but new studies suggesting that MTBE can contaminate groundwater have lead to calls for a ban on its use. Pushing ethanol is good politics for Daschle and other farm-state senators, who are critical in the battle to maintain a Democratic edge in the Senate this election year. The provision has touched off a storm of lobbying, including alleged calls by the oil industry for looser environmental regulations in other areas in exchange for the MTBE phaseout.