The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today  approved a request to increase the blend of ethanol in unleaded gas from 10 to 15%. However, E-15 will only be allowed for use in vehicles of model year 2007 and newer.

Former Iowa Congressman Jim Nussle serves on the board of directors for Growth Energy, a coalition of ethanol producers in Iowa and other states. He calls the EPA decision a good first step.

“Every long journey begins with a first step,” Nussle said. “It’s an exciting one when America needs an economic shot in the arm.”

 The federal government has mandated that more renewable fuels like ethanol be used in the coming years. Last year, the requirement was ten-point-five billion gallons. Next year, it’ll be 12-billion gallons, and 15-billion by 2015. Nussle says the E-15 decision will help the U.S. in terms of energy use and job creation.

“The economic studies that I’ve seen show that this creates more than 136,000 new jobs and injects about 24 billion dollars back into the U.S. economy instead of letting it bleed overseas,” Nussle said. According to Growth Energy, the move to E-15 will add an estimated seven billion gallons of demand for corn-based ethanol. Iowa is the nation’s top ethanol producer at nearly four-billion gallons a year. Many ethanol supporters are disappointed with the EPA limit on 2007 or newer vehicles, but Nussle says it’ll still have a big impact.

“Today’s decision affects 40 to 65 million vehicles, nearly 20 percent of the current U.S. fleet and one-third of the fuel consumption. That, right there, is enormous,” Nussle said. EPA officials indicated a decision on allowing E-15 in vehicles of model year 2001 to 2006 is expected by the end of this year.