The Environmental Protection Agency said it would probably increase the amount of ethanol that gasoline retailers could blend into ordinary fuel to 15 percent if tests show the blend would not damage cars.
The agency said it was likely to approve the increase next summer, but perhaps for use only in cars of the 2001 model year and later, according to an article in The New York Times.
The federal agency was set to release its decision Monday on a waiver request by Growth Energy, a pro-ethanol lobby group, for higher ethanol blends, but said it needed more time to review test data.
"This announcement is a strong signal that we are preparing to move to E15, a measure that will create 136,000 new U.S. jobs, cut greenhouse gas emissions and lessen America's dependence on imported oil," said Gen. Wesley Clark, co-chairman of Growth Energy, in a statement.
A decision by the EPA is expected in mid-2010, the agency said on its Web site.
"In a letter sent [Monday] to Growth Energy ... the agency said that while not all tests have been completed, the results of two tests indicate that engines in newer cars likely can handle an ethanol blend higher than the current 10 percent limit," the EPA said in a statement.
"The agency will decide whether to raise the blending limit when more testing data is available. EPA also announced that it has begun the process to craft the labeling requirements that will be necessary if the blending limit is raised," the agency added.
The National Marine Manufacturers Association interpreted the EPA's delay in ruling as a positive sign.
"We are pleased that EPA has acknowledged our concerns with E15 and elected to delay final judgment until more studies can be completed. We continue to call for more testing on marine engines and boat fuel systems," said Mat Dunn, NMMA legislative director, in a statement.
"Any attempt to 'bifurcate' the fuel supply by allowing E15 for only certain automobiles would lead to a myriad of misfueling, liability and consumer safety issues and likely cause the price of fuel for boaters to increase while availability of compatible blends decreases," he added. "Although EPA has noted that it is working on pump labeling requirements should higher blends be permitted in the marketplace, it is not yet clear if these efforts are sufficient to ensure that the nation's 70 million boaters are protected from these very serious concerns."