(DTN)--The Renewable Fuels Association reports the July 11 Los Angeles Times said ExxonMobil has announced it will switch from MTBE to ethanol in its California gasoline by early next year. ExxonMobil, the world's largest oil company, joins BP and Shell Oil Products US in committing to be MTBE free in 2003. Phillips Petroleum already blends more than 80% of its gasoline in California with ethanol.

"As the world's largest oil company, ExxonMobil's decision sends a clear signal that refiners want to rid themselves and their customers of MTBE," said Bob Dinneen, RFA president. "California consumers have led the fight to protect drinking water by demanding the elimination of MTBE in gasoline. A majority of California refiners have heard their call and are responding. I believe California consumers will reward oil companies like ExxonMobil that make an early switch away from MTBE."

With ExxonMobil's decision, four (BP, Shell, Phillips, and ExxonMobil) of California's five major refiners will be using ethanol next year. The only remaining major refiner, ChevronTexaco, hasn't made a definitive public statement regarding their timetable for eliminating the use of MTBE in California gasoline. According to 2001 figures from the California State Board of Equalization, BP, Shell, Phillips, and ExxonMobil together account for more than 60% of total gasoline sales in California. The switch to ethanol will likely create a market for more than 500 million gallons of ethanol in California next year, RFA said.

"Clearly, ethanol-blended fuels will be the majority fuel in California next year," said Dinneen. "This is further evidence that any oil company that wants to stop using MTBE this year can--all it takes is commitment. The ethanol industry underwent dramatic expansion in order to be ready to serve the needs of California consumers. We look forward to supplying California consumers with a premium gasoline additive that will help clean the air and protect precious drinking water supplies."

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