National Press Club

Clark Urges Administration to Increase Ethanol Blend

March 6, 2009 | By Frank Maisano

Wesley Clark calls for more ethanol in gas.

Wesley Clark calls for more ethanol in gas.

Photo/Image: Donna Leinwand

Former general and presidential candidate Wesley Clark, new head of the pro-ethanol Growth Energy, called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to raise the limit on the amount of ethanol blended into gasoline from 10 percent (E10) up to 15 percent (E15) in a Newsmaker in the Holman Lounge on Friday.

Clark said E15 could create 136,101 new jobs and inject $24.4 billion into the American economy annually.

“Increasing the ethanol blend up to E15 is a common-sense solution to our economic, energy and environmental challenges," Clark said, adding that a higher blend of ethanol will help jumpstart the economy while further reducing dependence on foreign oil.

The hour-long question and answer session posed a number of questions, including the "Food vs. Fuel" debate, ethanol's energy content, EPA's upcoming ethanol lifecycle greenhouse gas analysis and the challenges of financing of new plants. The questioning also specifically addressed the potential problems that increased ethanol blends may poise for motor vehicle and small engines.

While Clark downplayed the impacts, pointing to several studies that showed no performance issues, a coalition of opponents of the move that includes small engines groups, refiners, environmental groups and boat/marine groups said motorists and consumers cannot afford to risk performance issues or higher costs because of increased ethanol blends. While Clark said testing has shown little impacts, opp onents claim that existing test results suggest that mid-level ethanol blends may not only be incompatible with most of today’s motor vehicle and nonroad equipment engines, but may actually lead to increases in emissions.

Clark said he hopes EPA will take quick action on his group's request, but would not predict when the administration would take the issue up.

"The time for action is now," Clark said . "The quicker we move, the faster we stimulate our economy, help our farm communities and reduce our dependence on foreign oil."