U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-IA is preparing legislation to tighten air quality performance standards in the Clean Air Act's reformulated gasoline program, and maintain and enhance ethanol's rightful opportunity to deliver clean air benefits.

Harkin, the ranking member on the Senate Agriculture Committee, is a long-time advocate for ethanol.

"Ethanol is a proven alternative to MTBE," Harkin said. "My legislation will tighten the quality performance standards in the Clean Air Act and give ethanol its rightful place to deliver cleaner air to Americans.

"Big oil is determined to push ethanol out of the picture and put polluting compounds back into gasoline," Harkin said. "I am determined to stop them. My legislation will tighten air quality standards in the law, so that the gasoline the oil companies produce actually results in cleaner air for people to breathe in the future."

Key elements of Harkin's legislation will include:

--Tighter limitations on aromatic compounds in gasoline, many of which are very carcinogenic. These include benzene, toluene, xylena and similar substances

--Air quality performance standards at least as stringent as the public health benefits that oxygen additives now provide. The Clean Air Act implicitly recognizes air quality benefits from oxygen additives, such as ethanol, but it does not explicitly recognize the air benefits in terms of actual air quality performance standards.

--Establish particulate matter performance standards to ensure achieving air quality benefits provided by the addition of oxygen to gasoline. Adding oxygen to gasoline reduces particulate emissions, but raising aromatics is expected to increase fine particulate matter in the air.

--Ensure strong rules against "dumping"--to guard against oil companies taking dirty, polluting compounds out of gasoline in reformulated gasoline areas and then dumping these toxic and dirty junk compounds into the gasoline produced for other regions that have less stringent gasoline cleanliness standards.

Harkin is a co-sponsor of legislation to ban the use of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) in gasoline nationally, and believes the odds of obtaining a ban are favorable. He is working to ensure as MTBE is taken out of gasoline, ethanol's role is strengthened.

"Ethanol is the natural choice to replace MTBE," Harkin said. "Ethanol has a proven track record in satisfying the stronger air quality performance standards reflected in the elements of my legislation."

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