AUGUSTA, Maine — A long-debated bill that could have banned the use of corn-based ethanol in motor fuel in Maine passed unanimously through the Senate Thursday evening.

The original bill banned ethanol in fuel on the condition that two other New England states do the same. The Senate amended the bill so that the ethanol prohibition will take effect only if 10 other states with a collective population of at least 30 million ban it.

LD 115, An Act to Join in a Prohibition on Motor Fuel Containing Corn-Based Ethanol, faces more votes in the House and Senate. It was one of several bills dealing with ethanol that were debated by the Legislature this session in light of the possibility that the federal government will begin to require the use of more ethanol-heavy gasoline. Ethanol in fuel became more common beginning in 2007 with the passage of the federal Renewable Fuel Standard, which required fuel producers to increase the amount of renewable fuels in gasoline. The law required the use of 9 billion gallons of renewable fuel in 2008 but that number will rise to 36 billion gallons by 2022.

In order to send the message that the state is against the use of so-called E15 gasoline, which includes 15 percent ethanol, the Legislature passed LD 453, An Act to Prohibit the Sale of Gasoline That Contains Ethanol as an Additive at a Level Greater Than 10 Percent by Volume, which was signed into law by Gov. Paul LePage on May 7.

According to AAA, approximately 95 percent of vehicles currently on the road could have their warranties voided because auto manufacturers have said E15 doesn’t comply with their vehicles’ fuel requirements. The Renewable Fuels Association, which represents the ethanol industry, disputes that and claims that some 62 percent of light-duty vehicles can use E15.

As of the beginning of this year, according to the association, the E15 blend was available at 10 gas stations in Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska.


Christopher Cousins

Christopher Cousins has worked as a journalist in Maine for more than 15 years and covered state government for numerous media organizations before joining the Bangor Daily News in 2009.