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    Hearings Set on Ethanol Pump Safety

    UL, DOE invites oil companies, automakers and researchers to discuss E85 equipment standards.

    Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and the Department of Energy are holding two days of hearings this week to discuss the creation of standards for E85 fuel equipment. The meetings will be held at the testing group's offices outside Chicago, according to a report in the New York Times.

    Last week, UL, an independent, non-governmental institution that certifies all types of electrical and mechanical products, temporarily withdrew authorization for the UL-approved label on parts used in E85 dispensers over fears that the product could potentially corrode metal and plastic parts in pumps. E85 is a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.

    The withdrawal of UL approval could slow the expansion of E85, which has been pushed by government officials and automakers as a partial solution to the nation's environmental and fuel supply problems.

    According to the Times, a number of companies are delaying plans to roll out E85 fuel stations. BP, the British oil company, said it would stop the expansion of the fuel at its American gas stations and Wal-Mart Stores said the UL certification issue would be "one more thing to consider" as it mulls offering E85 at nearly 400 Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores nationwide.

    Currently, about 1,000 stations, mostly in the Midwest, sell E85, and despite being in use for more than 10 years, no safety problems have been reported.

    Ron Lamberty, director of market development for the American Coalition for Ethanol, told CSNews that the pump safety issue is not likely to stall the further development of ethanol in the U.S. Pointing out the UL originally approved the current ethanol pumps, Lamberty said that it was more important that the government provide incentives to gasoline dealers to cover the cost of converting regular pumps into E85 dispensers.

    Automakers, including GM and Ford, have committed to expand the number of stations that their new vehicles can fill their tanks at, and have promised, along with DaimlerChrysler, to double the number of E85 vehicles sold each year, to reach 2 million flex-fuel vehicles by 2010.

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