A call to revise the ethanol mandate


When 42 percent of the U.S. House of Representatives says it’s time to revise the ethanol mandate in this country, it’s time for the Environmental Protection Agency to heed the call.

A bipartisan group of 184 House members sent a letter last week to the EPA calling for revisions. According to a report from the Smarter Fuel Future Coalition, which includes the National Marine Manufacturers Association and other groups, it’s indicative of the increasing number of lawmakers “becoming aware of the flawed nature of the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

The heightened demand for revision stems from the certainty that the ethanol “blend wall” will be breached. What’s the blend wall? Simply, it’s the maximum amount of ethanol in fuel that can be tolerated by all engines and that’s the current 10 percent or E10.

The dilemma is that the Renewable Fuel Standard calls for the amount of ethanol required to be blended into our gasoline supply to continuously increase. But when the fuel standard was passed by Congress more than a decade ago, no one could foresee the drop in gasoline demand that has since occurred in the U.S. The result: continuing to demand increasing amounts of ethanol be blended into a declining gas supply will force blends to be increased to E15 and higher.

“In 2007, the market assumptions regarding the future of transportation fuels in the United States were very different from the realities of the market today,” the letter to the EPA accurately says. Specifically, it cites increased engine fuel efficiency that has led to shrinking gasoline demand, and that has “exacerbated the onset of the blend wall — the point at which the gasoline supply is saturated with the maximum amount of ethanol that the current vehicle fleet, marine and other small engines and the refueling infrastructure can safely accommodate.”

The EPA could use its statutory authority to waive the increase in ethanol volume to keep the volume requirements below the E10 blend wall. In doing so, it would limit a negative economic impact, avoid damaging millions of engines and save consumers from more costs and harm than they’ve already been experiencing.

You’ll recall that last June, the EPA proposed increasing the amount of ethanol required in the overall U.S. fuel supply. That was not what the marine industry and many others hoped for from the EPA. Concurrently, the EPA proposed lower amounts than required by the Clean Air Act and that drew heavy fire from pro-ethanol side.

While convincing the EPA to unilaterally act to avoid a breach of the blend wall is important to every dealer’s boating customers, and while we can be encouraged by the large bipartisan support we’re seeing in the Congress, the long-term solution actually needs congressional action. The industry must continue its push for permanently revising the Renewable Fuel Standard.


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