It took a tie-breaking vote, but farm-state senators made certain that corn-based ethanol will be used widely, beginning next year, in a cleaner burning gasoline.
By the most narrow margin possible, the Senate on Wednesday turned back an attempt by some senators to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from implementing a regulation that promotes the use of ethanol in gasoline.After the 100 senators deadlocked, Vice President Al Gore cast the deciding vote, 51-50, to kill the amendment, offered by Sen. Bennett Johnston, D-La., to the EPA's fiscal 1995 budget. In his constitutional role as Senate president, the vice president votes only in the event of a tie.
The amendment would have barred the EPA from using any of its budget to implement the ethanol regulation.
The vote came after more than four hours of debate on the pros and cons of ethanol, a corn-based product that is competing with petroleum-based methanol as an additive that makes gasoline burn cleaner by adding more oxygen.
Johnston argued that the EPA's regulation, unveiled last month, unfairly favors ethanol over the methanol derivative called MTBE, which the petroleum industry favors.
A month ago, the EPA said that under a new clean gasoline requirement, 30 percent of the new oxygen-enhancing additive, required by the 1990 Clean Air Act, must come from a renewable source, principally ethanol.
The EPA requirement was a windfall for farmers and related agricultural businesses, who stand to make as much as $1.5 billion a year from the expanded demand for ethanol, according to the American Farm Bureau.
The EPA has defended the requirement for a renewable-source gasoline additive, saying it will help the environment and reduce oil imports.