Illinois corn farmers, and refiners such as Archer Daniels Midland Co., face their toughest fight ever as new opponents line up against subsidies and other federal support for ethanol.
Fear that the Obama administration soon will allow gasoline to contain 50 percent more ethanol -- 15 percent, up from 10 percent currently -- has united 39 industries and activist groups. Makers of automobiles, powerboats and chain saws are aligned with traditional opponents in the oil industry and more recent critics in the food industry and environmental movement, who are concerned about ethanol's impact on corn prices and air pollution.
"We call it the odd-fellows coalition," says Gregory Scott, executive vice president of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association in Washington. "They are all strongly saying the science is not complete, the testing is not done" on potential harm to engines and increased emissions from higher ethanol blends.
Although the Detroit 3 worry about the effect of ethanol on engine durability, they generally have supported ethanol as a way to improve fuel economy and reduce dependence on imported oil.