Energy Bill Could Double Ethanol Production

The House of Representatives yesterday passed an energy bill that could increase ethanol production for gasoline to 3.1 billion gallons by 2005 and 5 billion gallons by 2012. The House passed the 1,200-page bill by a vote of 246-180, but it may run into Senate opposition because it comes with an overall $32-billion price tag with an estimated $23 billion over 10 years in tax breaks to energy-related

The House of Representatives yesterday passed an energy bill that could increase ethanol production for gasoline to 3.1 billion gallons by 2005 and 5 billion gallons by 2012.

The House passed the 1,200-page bill by a vote of 246-180, but it may run into Senate opposition because it comes with an overall $32-billion price tag with an estimated $23 billion over 10 years in tax breaks to energy-related industries. Opponents say it will add significantly to the country's growing deficit.

In addition, the bill may get bogged down over a provision granting protection from lawsuits to companies that manufacture the gasoline additive MTBE. When added to gasoline, MTBE helps improve air quality but has been found to contaminate drinking water supplies. According to results of a U.S. Geological Water Quality Assessment Survey done in July 2003, 55 percent of large water systems surveyed in urban areas have detected MTBE in their water supplies at varying levels. Protecting companies from MTBE lawsuits could cost states and local governments about $29 billion to clean up, according to Jack Hoffbuhr, executive director of the American Water Works Association.

Senators from farm states like the bill because it will help corn producers, and these senators and their supporters may be enough to pass the bill despite an expected filibuster by opponents. It could go to the Senate as early as Friday.

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