Iowa Senator Tom Harkin is accusing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of “bias” in its delay of a decision on allowing higher concentrations of corn-based ethanol to be blended into gasoline.

Harkin says, “I have a feeling that there are people at the Department of Energy, including the Secretary of Energy, that are just anti-ethanol.” Harkin, a Democrat, says he heard U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu make a discouraging comment about the corn-based renewable fuel during a speech last year.

“He said something to the effect that we have to recognize that ethanol needs to be phased out or is going to be phased out or it’s on its way out and I took note of that,” Harkin says. “I’m just wondering if the secretary has just closed his mind to the benefits of ethanol.”

The proposal which the EPA has put off would inject a greater concentration of ethanol into gasoline — the ten-percent ethanol blend would be increased to 15% ethanol. Initially, there was concern the higher ethanol blend might damage engine parts, but Harkin says multiple tests have already concluded, the boosted blend would be just fine.

“Evidently, the EPA is relying on the Department of Energy to do the testing,” Harkin says. “We’ve had enough tests. We’ve tested this forever, yet now the Department of Energy says they want to do more tests.” An estimate from the Renewable Fuels Association shows an increase to 15% ethanol could replace 200-million barrels of imported oil a year.