No more MTBE

Published: Thursday 15 November 2001

the us senate environment committee has recently approved a legislation that bans the use of methyl tertiery butyl ether (mtbe), a gasoline additive, within four years. It also allows us states to opt out of a federal programme that requires polluted areas to use oxygenates for reducing emissions. As per the legislation, us $400 million would be given to the states for cleaning up sites and water supplies contaminated by mtbe. Some time ago, due to groundwater contamination problem, California had requested for a waiver from the use of oxygenates and announced a ban on the use of mtbe. But the us Environment Protection Agency (usepa) had declined from granting the waiver. Now, under the new legislation sponsored by Republican senator Bob Smith of New Hampshire, states could ban the use any oxygenate, including ethanol, provided clean air standards are preserved.

However, experts have warned that decision taken by just one committee does not ensure that these changes will become law. They predict that as this bill makes its way through the legislative process in the us senate, the provisions for removing the oxygenate mandate are likely to be supplemented by the addition of a new mandate for renewable fuels like ethanol. Even the us Oxygen Fuels Association has warned that the legislation would result in more pollution because mtbe cuts nitrogen oxide emissions from gasoline by four to five per cent.

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