Senate Signals Fuel Mandate Support

The U.S. Senate signaled its strong support for a bill that would mandate the blending of ethanol into U.S. gasoline nationwide by solidly rejecting two amendments that would have weakened the legislation.

The votes led backers of the national renewable fuels standard to express optimism that the Senate would vote on and approve the bill this week.

However, lawmakers will have to first debate and vote on at least several more amendments seeking to weaken the legislation, which would mandate the blending of 5 billion gallons of ethanol in U.S. gasoline across the nation by 2012.

According to Reuters News Service, opponents have threatened to file dozens of amendments to water down the bill. Democrats Charles Schumer of New York and Dianne Feinstein of California were believed to have 100 amendments ready to block mandatory use of renewable fuels, Reuters reported earlier this week.

One such amendment, offered Tuesday by Feinstein, sought to allow individual states to exempt petroleum refiners from the mandate if they could demonstrate to the Environmental Protection Agency that federal clean air standards could be met without the corn-based additive.

Feinstein's amendment was defeated 60-35, as was another amendment she offered that would have allowed governors to decide whether ethanol should be required. That amendment, whose co-sponsors included Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., failed 62-34.

Feinstein charged in a Tuesday speech on the Senate floor that, "forcing states to use ethanol they do not need and forcing states to pay for ethanol they do not use amounts to a transfer of wealth from all states to the Midwest corn states."

Feinstein also argued that the bill could cause spikes in gasoline prices due to the reliance it places on ethanol production, much of which is in the Midwest.

Editors note: Richard Brock, The Corn and Soybean Digest's Marketing Editor, is president of Brock Associates, a farm market advisory firm, and publisher of The Brock Report.