U.S. Senators recently agreed to triple the ethanol used in gasoline and to ban MTBE, leading to a nationwide ban in four years. The compromise assures that a package of new gasoline requirements aimed at giving refiners more flexibility, helping farmers sell corn for ethanol and ensuring no backsliding in air quality will be part of energy legislation before the Senate. At least 13 states already have enacted laws that either have prohibited or will ban MTBE, but those efforts have been hindered because of a federal requirement that gasoline contain an oxygenate like MTBE. The compromise would end that federal requirement.

The gasoline agreement would require refiners by 2012 to use at least 5 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol or other bio-fuel nationwide, about three times the amount produced today. The first stage of the new ethanol mandate would go into effect in two years, when the volume must increase to 2.3 billion gallons nationwide from the current 1.7 billion gallons.