October 4, 1999
News Release 99-140
Inv. No. 332-404


Two recent events may presage a change in U.S. government policy concerning a key additive used to produce oxygenated gasoline, reports the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) in its publication Methyl Tertiary-Butyl Ether (MTBE): Conditions Affecting the Domestic Industry.

MTBE, formerly used primarily as an octane enhancer to replace the tetraethyllead phased out of gasoline in the late 1970s and early 1980s, is now used mainly as an oxygenate blended with gasoline to add sufficient oxygen to meet the oxygen requirements of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990. MTBE is used in about 84 percent of U.S. reformulated gasoline; fuel ethanol is used in much of the remainder.

However, MTBE production and consumption in the United States could be significantly affected by two recent events: an executive order issued last March by the governor of California that requires the phaseout of MTBE in California by the end of the year 2002, and a report issued last July by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's "Blue Ribbon Panel on Oxygenates in Gasoline" that recommends reduced use of MTBE in the United States, with efforts to curtail use to begin immediately.

The ITC, an independent, nonpartisan, factfinding federal agency, recently completed the report for the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR).

As requested, the ITC's report provides an overview of the global MTBE market, including consumption, production, capacity, and trade trends during 1994-1998, emphasizing the United States and Saudi Arabia; a description of the U.S. MTBE market and the major factors affecting it, including imports, especially from Saudi Arabia; an overview of the current MTBE production processes; and profiles of the U.S. and Saudi Arabian MTBE industries and importers, as well as government policies affecting MTBE production, investment, and trade. Other highlights of the report follow.

The foregoing is from the ITC's report Methyl Tertiary-Butyl Ether (MTBE): Conditions Affecting the Domestic Industry (Inv. No. 332-404, USITC Publication 3231, September 1999). The report will be posted on the ITC's Internet server at www.usitc.gov. A printed copy may be requested by calling 202-205-1809 or by writing the Office of the Secretary, U.S. International Trade Commission, 500 E Street SW, Washington, DC 20436. Requests may be faxed to 202-205-2104.