By Malia Rulon
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON - Legislation that would triple the amount of corn-based ethanol used in gasoline by 2012 advanced in the Senate on Wednesday despite concerns raised by the makers of a gasoline additive that the bill bans.
The Environment and Public Works Committee approved the measure on a voice vote, sending the bill to the Senate for further consideration.
Ohio farmers are pushing for the bill to be approved quickly. The nation's seventh largest corn grower, Ohio is the only state in the Midwest without a plant that turns corn into ethanol or soybeans into diesel fuel.
Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio, a bill sponsor, said it's critical that the legislation pass Congress by this summer.
Sixteen states have enacted bans on MTBE, and additional states are considering bans on the gas additive blamed for polluting drinking water in many areas, according to the National Conference of State Legislators. That means the gasoline market will need a replacement additive soon to make sure supply and distribution of fuel is not interrupted, Voinovich said.
"Without this legislation, we are going to have a major problem producing gasoline," said Voinovich, a Republican.
Joe Cornley, a spokesman for the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, said the bill should boost prices for Ohio-grown corn and encourage financial backing for an ethanol plant.
"The real challenge for the plants in Ohio is that they have to be economically viable," he said. "We need to do things as a state to make sure of that."
But Frank Maisano, a spokesman for the Washington-based Oxygenated Fuels Association, said the bill focuses too much on ethanol.
"That's going to lead to higher prices and less supply for consumers," he said. "There is just not enough ethanol in the short term to be able to satisfy the thirst of American supply."
Companies that produce oxygenated fuel additives are more supportive of a similar measure in the House that does not ban MTBE nationwide but leaves that decision up to individual states, Maisano said.
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