MTBE (methyl-tertiary butyl ether)

(methyl-tertiary butyl ether)
Sarah Lilley
ES 333
History of MTBE
• First introduced in 1979
• Used as an oxygenate to curb lead
• Wide-spread use following CAA of 1990
• Reduced ground-ozone and cancer risk
due to automobile emissions
• Easily produced
• Cheaper than alternatives, such as
The Issue
• Found to contaminate groundwater as early as
• Doesn’t adhere to soil particles
• Easily soluble in water, difficult to remove
• Main leak source: underground storage tanks
• Contaminated water tastes like turpentine
• States which once had high levels of air pollution
now had high levels of water contamination
• Cleanup is estimated at $29 billion
• Oil companies and
their lobbyists
• Oil-state politicians
• Republicans
• Environmental groups
and their lobbyists
• Corn-state politicians
• Democrats
Who’s Responsible for Cleanup?
• Government: for requiring the use of oxygenates
in gasoline?
• Oil Companies: for using MTBE since it was
cheap and easy to produce, rather than
investigating alternatives?
Energy Policy Act of 2005
• Sponsored by Joe Barton, R-TX, with cosponsors Richard Pombo, R-CA, and
William Thomas, R-CA
• Congress is aware that it authorized use of
MTBE, knowing it to be a water
• Congress recognizes the problem of
MTBE contamination and the need for
• Offers assistance to oil companies to
make switch from MTBE to other additives