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LINCOLN, Neb. -- Nebraska lawmakers are set to vote today on a measure that would free gas stations from having to label fuel blends made of less than 11 percent ethanol, said reports. The current law requires labels if the blend contains at least 1 percent ethanol.
State Sen. Mark Christensen sponsored a version of the bill that would remove all ethanol labeling requirements. The Legislature's Agricultural Committee proposed an amendment limiting the requirement to 11 percent. Eighteen other states currently require labels for fuel blends of 1 percent ethanol or more.
Labels give consumers the impression that ethanol may damage their car engines, said Ron Lamberty, a vice president the American Coalition for Ethanol. "We've found that, over the years, it's been viewed by most consumers as a warning label," Lamberty added. "There's all kinds of stuff in gasoline, but they're not required to label all of it." Lamberty also said gas station owners should have the choice whether to label or not.
The bill must pass three floor votes before moving on to Gov. Dave Heineman. Its supporters include the Association of Nebraska Ethanol Producers; opponents include the Nebraska Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association.
"What we didn't want to do is jeopardize that really solid majority of fuel users who look for ethanol when they drive into a gas station," said John K. Hansen, president of the Nebraska Farmers Union. "We have a lot of members who, if they don't see an ethanol label clearly posted, will drive on to the next station." The Farmers Union agreed to endorse the bill with the amendment attached, said Hansen.
Loran Schmit, president of the Association of Nebraska Ethanol Producers, says the labeling requirement promotes the "purely wrong" belief that ethanol is dangerous. "It's pure nonsense," Schmit said. "There isn't a make and model that I know of in Nebraska today that doesn't operate on E-10."
Nebraska is the second-largest ethanol-producing state in the U.S., behind Iowa. It refines 1.7 billion gallons each year and accounts for 13 percent of the country's capacity, said the Washington, D.C.-based Renewable Fuels Association.
Current federal law does not require labels for fuel blends with 10 percent ethanol or less. The Environmental Protection Agency has approved the E-15 ethanol blend for use with some vehicles dating to 2001 but offers no labeling guidelines.