Just a few months after the Obama administration gave gas stations the green light to begin selling gasoline that contains 15 percent ethanol, a lawsuit has been filed challenging that decision.

The National Petrochemical and Refiners Association has moved forward with a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency claiming that the EPA simply does not have the authority under the Clean Air Act to approve a plan for fuels in certain engines while excluding others.

Essentially the Obama administration’s initial decision was to allow for the new ethanol blends to be used in cars manufactured after 2007. This is the crux of the NPRA’s argument about not treating all cars equally. The same argument is the basis for another lawsuit against the EPA that claims “misfueling” could happen when motorists accidently fill up older vehicles with the new corn-based blend. Interestingly enough, there is wide spread speculation in Washington that the EPA plans to approve the higher ethanol blends for cars and trucks manufactured between 2001 and 2006.

This ethanol debate, however, is not exactly one-sided. In fact there are two sides that are not happy with the plan, which sort of embodies the atmosphere in Washington these days. While there are concerns by refinery organizations and automobile manufacturers, the policy is also criticized by biofuel groups who didn’t think the initial plan went far enough.

According to one story by the Associated Press, “The ethanol industry says the EPA should have approved the ethanol blend for more vehicles. They say there is enough evidence to show that a 15 percent ethanol blend in motor fuel will not harm engine performance.” So just like the tax cut deal in late 2010, and just like the START treaty and soon-to-be debated federal budget, it seems there is plenty of frustration from Democrats, Republicans, advocacy groups and industry organizations. This is what is known as compromise, and while Republicans and Democrats have been against the idea during the first two years of the Obama administration and during eight years of the Bush administration, that is what we now have in Washington.

Of course, taking these frustrations to the judicial system isn’t exactly what the “Great Compromiser” Henry Clay had in mind when he became famous for striking deals in Washington. Yet, this may be as close as present-day Washington will get to the deals of the early 1800s. As for the ethanol and biofuel issue, it certainly has no signs of going away. Beyond the current lawsuits that are now up for consideration, there are now rules set in place by Congress that require refineries to blend 36 billion gallons of biofuels (which mostly include ethanol) for use in cars in trucks by 2022. These rules are all subject to lawsuits and, of course, future compromise.

The great ethanol debate heads to the courts
One side says the EPA is overstepping its bounds, while some say it didn't go far enough.