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Ethanol, Fighting for Its Life, Gets a Temporary Reprieve

Gas pumps with a sign indicating the gas is containing up to 10 percent ethanol at a gas station in 2013
Gas pumps with a sign indicating the gas is containing up to 10 percent ethanol at a gas station in 2013Photograph by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The ethanol industry just avoided a death blow. Rather than deciding to permanently lower the amount of renewable fuels that have to be blended into the U.S. gasoline supply, as it first proposed a year ago, the Environmental Protection Agency last week opted to wait until next year to decide. The delay (official notice here) means this year’s ethanol quotas won’t be set until 2015 and ensures they will be lower than the original mandate envisioned. That’s not great news for ethanol producers, but it gives them more time to fight and avoids an outcome that could have been far worse.

When Congress first passed the Renewable Fuel Standard during the George W. Bush years, it set out a schedule of yearly mandates that rose steeply with what it thought would be the country’s perpetually growing demand for gasoline. Biofuel production has tripled since then, into a $30 billion-a-year industry.