Increased Ethanol Use Could Mean Higher Crop Prices

Ethanol producers are lobbying the Environmental Protection Agency to boost the amount of ethanol that can be blended with gasoline from 10-percent to 15-percent. Automakers and small engine companies say such a change could damage engines, fuel lines and emission controls. Whether corn-based ethanol ultimately benefits the environment also continues to be argued by scientists on both sides of the debate. Tom Hall, agriculture agent for the Maryland Cooperative Extension of Kent County, said that even though ethanol is mostly produced in the mid-West, local farmers would likely favor the 15-percent increase.

Small engine manufacturers say increased alcohol content in gasoline could adversely affect the operation of everything from lawnmowers and chainsaws to boats and motorcycles. Local small-engine repair shops already have seen an increase in business since ethanol was introduced into gasoline. The Renewable Fuels Association, a trade group for ethanol producers based in Washington, says there is no evidence that ethanol harms smaller engines.