Hastert Pushes Fuel Standards

House Speaker Dennis Hastert says the solution to two summers of wildly spiking gasoline prices is to simplify the nation's patchwork of fuel requirements.

The Illinois Republican signed on to bipartisan legislation introduced yesterday that would create national standards for gas by pre-empting state laws and allowing only three fuel types, instead of about 15 different "boutique" fuel blends now sold around the country, the Associated Press reported.

Hastert called it "the commonsense thing to do." Supporters said they hoped to bring the bill to the House floor by July.

A federal pollution-reduction program requires that gas sold in the cities with the dirtiest air contain oxygenates, such as corn-based ethanol or natural gas-based MTBE, to make it burn cleaner. In addition, several cities voluntarily participate in the federal clean-air program, and many states have enacted fuel regulations on top of the federal rules.

All that has led to numerous regional differences in gasoline blends. A motorist traveling the 300 miles from Chicago to St. Louis, for instance, could buy up to four different blends on the trip, each in three different grades, the report said.

Many, particularly the oil companies, have said that can create supply and distribution nightmares that are to blame for rising gas prices the last two summers.

The new oxygenated gas would almost certainly be created by adding ethanol, made from corn, because the only other oxygenate, MTBE, is being phased out in most areas because it pollutes groundwater. The result could well be expanded sales of ethanol. The Environmental Protection Agency had no comment, citing a study of the boutique fuel situation that it expects to complete by fall, the report said.
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