WASHINGTON – A coalition of business, environmental, budget watchdog and public interest groups voiced displeasure in responding to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Jan. 21 decision to expand the scope of its October 2010 decision to allow a 50% increase — from 10% (E10) to 15% (E15) — in the amount of ethanol permitted in gasoline, the American Meat Institute relays.

The EPA decision broadens its earlier decision to allow E15 gasoline in model year 2007 or newer automobiles. The new higher ethanol-content fuel will now be available for use in millions of cars in model years 2001 to 2006 as well.

Increased pressure on the corn supply has again pushed corn above $6 a bushel, levels not seen since 2008, pointed out J. Patrick Boyle, AMI president and CEO. “This announcement only means that more corn will be diverted from an already thinning supply and increased pressure will be put on the meat and poultry sector which is already facing near record high feed costs,” he added. “For consumers who are concerned about food prices, this decision will further increase prices at the grocery store. Burning our food and feed as fuel is not a sustainable approach to solving this country’s long-term energy needs.”

EPA’s decision will divert even more food and feed to fuel, increasing food prices at a time when food prices are already rising, said Geoff Moody, director, Energy and Environmental Policy, Grocery Manufacturers Association. “We urge EPA and the Obama Administration to put the needs of ordinary Americans ahead of the needs of the ethanol industry and reverse this decision," he added.

EPA’s decision is another giveaway to the ethanol interests and again demonstrates EPA cannot or will not balance the broad national interests on this issue, charged Bill Roenigk, senior vice president and chief economist, National Chicken Council. “E15 may be good for ethanol producers and corn farmers, but it is clearly detrimental to all other interested parties,” he added. “To the extent EPA and the ethanol industry actually manage to force more ethanol into the nation’s motor gasoline, they will put even more pressure on the already very tight supply of corn. When consumers ask why their food costs are higher, it will be difficult for EPA to explain that today’s decision had no impact on the food shopper’s dollar.”

"This decision to increase the ethanol blend in gasoline is environmentally shortsighted and virtually guaranteed to negatively impact US food security," warned Barry Carpenter, CEO, National Meat Association.

EPA’s decision completely disregarded significant scientific and economic evidence surrounding E15 and its potentially disastrous impact, said Joel Brandenberger, president, National Turkey Federation. “It sends a terrible signal to an already volatile market at a time when corn supplies are very tight,” he added. “The long-term potential for diverting even larger amounts of corn away from food and feed is a recipe for that could result in consumers paying more for food.”