California Governor to Delay MTBE Phase-out

Sacramento -- California Governor Gray Davis most likely will postpone banning the gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) from the state's fuel supply by one to two years, according to petroleum industry sources.

An industry source said that no infrastructure exists to effectively make the transition from MTBE to ethanol, which has been required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In June, the EPA required the state to start blending corn-based ethanol into its gasoline.

The ban would mean that California must start using ethanol, although state and local refiners say that a cleaner gasoline can be made without either additive.

In response, the state has sued the federal government so that the state can manufacture its clean-burning gasoline without ethanol or MTBE.

California officials say they will announce a decision as early as this week on the fate of MTBE, a substance first used to help burn fuel more cleanly but has since come under attack for its links to groundwater contamination and cancer.

MTBE currently is scheduled for phase-out by Dec. 31, 2002.