New Report Gives Ethanol an OK to Replace MTBE in Gasoline
"This report puts a respected scientific stamp on what we've known all along
-- ethanol is a safe, environmentally-friendly gasoline additive," said Eric
Vaughn, President of the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). "Putting ethanol
in gasoline helps the environment and is safe for humans. This study shows
we will not repeat the MTBE disaster. Ethanol is a cost-competitive
replacement for MTBE that is safe. Oil refiners should immediately begin to
move from toxic MTBE to clean, renewable ethanol as the oxygen additive in
The RFA delivered the report to the U.S. EPA, Department of Energy, and
Department of Agriculture who testified before the Senate Agriculture
Committee concerning the MTBE crisis and the future of renewable fuels.
Cambridge Environmental Inc., a leading environmental consulting firm,
prepared the report for the RFA.
The report contained the following conclusions:
? Exposure to ethanol vapors coming from ethanol-blended gasoline is very
unlikely to have any adverse health consequences. Because ethanol is
naturally present in blood and the body rapidly eliminates ethanol, exposure
to ethanol vapors, except in unlikely extreme cases, does not significantly
elevate blood ethanol levels. Since it takes a relatively high blood ethanol
level to be toxic to people, vapor exposure is unlikely to harm health in
? Ethanol undergoes rapid biodegradation and will not persist in the
environment -- either in soil or water. Virtually any environment is capable
of biodegrading ethanol, whether soil, surface water, or groundwater.
Natural bacterial populations easily and quickly break down ethanol. In
fact, the half-life of ethanol in surface water ranges from only 6.5 to 26
? Ethanol and its byproducts do not pose an air pollution threat. Burning
ethanol as the oxygen additive in gasoline does increase the level of
acetaldehyde in air, but that increase is small compared to the risks posed
by the other gasoline components, and is offset by reductions in
formaldehyde. Burning ethanol also produces peroxyacetyl nitrate (PAN) but
at levels lower than past PAN exposures during MTBE use. Using ethanol will
not increase the risk of adverse health effects due to exposure to ethanol,
acetaldehyde, or PAN.
"The ethanol industry stands ready to help end the MTBE water contamination
crisis," said Vaughn. "We can easily ramp up ethanol production to replace
MTBE. We can do it cost-effectively. And this new report should end any
unwarranted concerns about ethanol's safety." For more information or to
receive a copy of the full report, visit the Renewable Fuels Association
Website at: or call 202-289-3835.