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Regional panel says no thanks to ethanol fueling stations

February 5, 2010 | 12:42 pm

Do the environmental costs of ethanol-based fuels outweigh their potential benefits?

Council members of the Southern California Assn. of Governments answered that question this week with an emphatic yes. The panel on Thursday rejected nearly $11 million in federal stimulus dollars targeted to build 55 ethanol fueling stations across the six-county Southern California region.

Eileen Tutt, executive director of the California Electric Transportation Coalition, on Friday called the panel's action "unfortunate."

"Ethanol is a key fuel in our move away from petroleum dependence,'' said Tutt, the former No. 2 in the California Environmental Protection Agency. "If we put the infrastructure in today, then we are closer to being prepared for when cellulosic ethanol is available."

Foes said that corn-based ethanol causes more harm than good because much of it would have to be trucked from farms in the Midwest. Even if the corn were grown in California, the water needed to produce a single gallon of ethanol, about 1,000 gallons, would make it cost prohibitive and ecologically unsound, opponents said.

Supporters of the project said that though ethanol isn't perfect, it's important to begin building the infrastructure for alternative fuels. Read more.

--Catherine Saillant