NMMA: EPA seeks guidance from Congress on ethanol

Posted on Written by Michael LaBella

A recent proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency seeking to raise the level of ethanol in the fuel supply was overwhelmingly rejected during its public comment period, prompting the EPA to turn to Congress for help on how to meet the mandate.

That’s according to National Marine Manufacturers Association members working through the court system and on Capitol Hill to change the mandate they say requires the fuel supply to consist of more ethanol than is feasible.

“The EPA’s hands are truly tied,” NMMA lobbyist John McKnight told Soundings Trade Only. “They have a mandate from Congress, so this is what they have to do. Under the RFS we’re supposed to have 36 billion gallons of ethanol in the fuel supply by 2022, which, based on projections, is technically unfeasible.”

The EPA proposal would have made E15 more prevalent in an effort to meet the requirement to increase the amount of ethanol in the fuel supply.

“We just went to a meeting with the EPA about three weeks ago, and they said, ‘We have received an overwhelming number of negative comments against our proposal,’ ” McKnight said. “Even the state of California, which has a big influence on the EPA’s decisions, said, ‘Don’t change from E10 to E15.’ Now the EPA is taking the football and punting back to Congress and saying, ‘Our hands are tied now unless you do something.’ ”

When the RFS was amended in 2007 it was written with the assumption that fuel consumption would increase, McKnight said. But two things happened.

New Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards have required cars to become more efficient, McKnight said. “Also, there was a recession. We’re seeing for the first time since the Industrial Revolution a decline in fuel usage in this country,” McKnight said.

The decline means that in order to hit the static requirement of 36 billion gallons of ethanol in the fuel supply the EPA would have to increase the amount of ethanol “astronomically,” to about E30 or E40, McKnight said.

“That’s the problem. The mandate is so hard-lined that it doesn’t accommodate the realities in the marketplace, so the EPA needs to go back to Congress” to find out how they want to address the problem, NMMA regulatory and legal affairs director Nicole Vasilaros told Trade Only.

Several bills are pending in the House and Senate to reform or repeal the RFS.

NMMA legislative council Jeff Gabriel said the good news is that the groups have raised the profile of the issue so much that major publications “are discussing the ridiculousness of this mandate.”

“In the strategic waiver process there’s wiggle room, so there’s concern that with everything Congress has to deal with coming up in the fall — mostly the next round of fiscal cliff fights — there’s concern that Congress will take its eye off the ball,” Gabriel said, stressing the importance of continued media coverage of the issue.

Because Congress seems geographically split on the issue instead of along party lines, Vasilaros hopes it will be an issue that lawmakers can move on.

“Hopefully ours is an issue they can get behind,” she said.

— Reagan Haynes

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Comments

4 comments on “NMMA: EPA seeks guidance from Congress on ethanol

  1. Tom

    I don’t understand why this is an issue. All they have to do is get Mr. Obama to say that they don’t have to meet this regulation. That appears to be working for every other law that is “going into effect” lately.

  2. Tyrone O'soros

    My sentiments exactly. The executive branch picks and chooses what legislation they want to ignore. They can just ignore this one as well. Boost the use of ethanol when the 700 miles of border fence is finished and not before.

  3. Mike Moore

    E10 is causing all sorts of problems with boat engines & gas tanks; raising the level to E15 would destroy the boating business, please consider an alternative. Mike Moore..Sportsman’s Marina

  4. CaptA

    @TOM,

    Your understanding of how EPA enforces the law shows you don’t understand how our government works. Congress creates the law, the Executive Branch, in this case the EPA, executes the law. EPA has punted it back to Congress because the mandate came from Congress. EPA does exactly what it is told to do. If you don’t like what it is doing, don’t complain to EPA, complain to your elected officials as they are the one who tells EPA what they can and should do.

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