House approves bill that allows sale of ethanol-free gas in Maine

AUGUSTA — Chalk one up for the little guy, and his small engines, too.

File photo

The Legislature is considering a bill that would allow Maine gas stations to sell fuel that does not contain ethanol.

That was the sentiment of the Maine House on Wednesday as it voted 109-32 in favor of a bill that would allow the sale of ethanol-free gasoline in Maine.

A pair of bills, offered by Rep. Jeff Timberlake, R-Turner, that came to the House floor with  an ought-not-to-pass recommendation from the committee were overturned by the full body.

“The ethanol additive, which is a derivative of corn, amounts to us burning our food in our fuel tanks,” Timberlake said after the vote. “And with the rising numbers of Americans going hungry, this just seems like a poor use of farmland and its product.”

The bill, LD 115, would allow Maine to join other New England states in banning the use of ethanol in fuel.

The Legislature's Environment and Natural Resources Committee voted 7-6 against the bill, but the measure picked up solid bipartisan support in the House.

The second measure, LD 105,  would allow Maine fuel retailers to sell gasoline with 5 percent ethanol, versus the current requirement of 10 percent. 

Timberlake said the subsidies given to Midwest farmers for growing corn for ethanol creates an unfair disadvantage for Maine farmers. He said the subsidy artificially increases the cost of corn and gasoline.

That has an indirect but costly impact on Maine farmers who use corn grain to feed livestock.

“With ethanol inflating the price of corn, corn in the last 10 years has risen from $2.50 a bushel to a recent high of $8.34 a bushel,” Timberlake said. “The cost of grain has also increased. Higher feed prices are reflected in the higher prices we are all paying for dairy, poultry, beef and pork items.”

Timberlake, an apple grower and hardware store owner, said small engines are more susceptible to water contamination when ethanol fuel is used in them.

He said the bills, which face additional votes in the House and Senate, are looking out for Maine residents and their finances.

“These bills are about helping Mainers keep more money in their pocket by minimizing engine repairs, and lowering the cost of fuel and virtually all consumer goods and products,” Timberlake said.

Joining in support of the legislation were the Maine Snowmobile Association, Maine Pilots Association, Maine Rental Association, Antique Auto Clubs, Maine Small Engine Dealers, Maine Boat Dealers and the Maine Auto Dealers Association.

Those who voted against the bill said Maine should be careful in passing legislation that bucks federal regulations that require an annually increasing amount of the nation’s fuels to come from renewable sources.

“The federal government requires significant use of renewable fuel, and currently ethanol is the only viable option,” said Rep. Joan Welsh, D-Rockport, chairwoman of the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee. “There’s no cost-effective source of non-ethanol fuel currently available.”

sthistle@sunjournal.com

Matthew Stone of the Bangor Daily News contributed to this report.

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Comments

CAROL PARKER's picture

I see this as a win for the environment.

Ethanol is not the green renewable fuel that everyone wants to think it is. It takes about 1,000 gallons of water to produce one gallon of ethanol. With a global concern growing about fresh water availability, this is not a very smart use of fresh water. Not to mention the amount of diesel fuel burned to till, plant, harvest, transport, process, and then transport the finished product drastically diminishes the "green" nature of this product. The idea of renewables is to get away from oil use, not prolong it. Other technologies are there and need to be developed for consumer use.

DANNY FITZSIMMONS's picture

its about time

it is about time they voted this crud out of our gas we are overpaying for it as it is and it is causing drastic problems from the dead sea around the plant that produces ethanol. a can of corn was 50 cents 7-8 years ago now its like a dollar plus. and corn is used in just so many items we take for granted and has increased the cost of those goods. Besides the damage to our motors this is causing. this is a first lobbyists lost wow what happened....

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