The Environmental Protection Agency had been expected to rule by Dec 1, 2009, on a request to raise the allowed level of ethanol in fuels to be burned in all cars from 10 percent to 15 percent (E15). The agency, which has indicated E15 is safe for newer cars, has delayed the ruling until at least May 2010 to conduct further tests on how the blends affect engines of older cars. EPA also is continuing to review what type of label should be affixed to gasoline pumps should the decision be made to increase the allowable blend rate percentage.

During EPA's recent public comment period on the subject, a coalition of automakers and oil companies asked the agency for a further delay in making the decision in order to allow more time for testing. Some sources signal the EPA could approve E15 for newer cars later this year.

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If EPA were to announce an increase, litigation is expected and thus implementation date is murky, but this is why EPA wants more research: to back up any percentage increase decision. Should EPA deny the petition request, another request would likely be made taking into consideration EPA's reasons for any denial.

While some farm-state lawmakers have indicated they may legislate a higher percentage level should EPA not okay the industry request, the odds are against such legislation getting through Congress and being signed into law.