Have we lost the ethanol battle?

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In an obvious effort to garner votes from Iowa corn farmers ahead of the midterm elections, President Trump is selling out the nation’s boaters, motorcyclists and millions of other small-engine owners by announcing this week that he’s directing the Environmental Protection Agency to approve the year-round sale of E15.

It comes despite the fact that E15 is prohibited by federal law for use in boat engines, voids many marine engine warranties and contributes to smog on hot days. You can kiss off the claims of environmental benefits. The sale of E15 is banned by the EPA in many states during the summer months, yet the Trump wants the agency to grant a waiver to the Clean Air Act so it can be sold in all 50 states all year.

It’s obviously a bitter pill for us in the marine industry, after years of lobbying and consistent efforts by the National Marine Manufacturers Association, state marine trades associations and boat owner groups, led by BoatUS. Over the years, hundreds of marine dealers have responded to calls for action to oppose such an expansion of ethanol gas.

The question: Have we lost this battle to protect our customers?

As that bastion of wisdom, Yogi Berra, observed: “It ain’t over till it’s over!” And you can take action today.

BoatUS is informing its half-million members of what is still ahead. At the core of the issue is something we’ve talked about for years, the Renewable Fuel Standard. When Congress passed it in 2005, it mandated billions of gallons of corn ethanol be blended into gas supplies to reduce our need for foreign oil. It was based on a faulty assumption that America’s use of gasoline would continue to grow. But gas consumption has not increased as forecast. So the only way to meet the mandate is to blend more ethanol into each gallon of gas.

To meet the RFS mandate, the EPA granted a partial waiver to allow E15 into the marketplace in 2010, regardless of low market demand and infrastructure constraints. This proposed EPA policy change will now greatly increase the chances that boaters will inadvertently put engine-killing E15 into their tanks. Moreover, just a small orange warning label on the pump is all that tells boat owners of a fueling a mistake that could lead to expensive warranty-voiding repairs and engine failure.

Boating groups, consumers, environmentalists, food producers and refiners have been joined by a bipartisan group of 20 senators voicing their opposition to Trump’s proposed directive, which will significantly change the Clean Air Act and allow more E15. Last summer, a bill to modify Clean Air Act rules favoring E15 didn’t make it out of the senate. For the EPA to now attempt this on its own is a blatant overstep and a contradiction of how it interpreted the law in the past.

Talk about hypocrisy.

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association joined other ethanol-industry heavyweights in making a case for the dubiously named Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act, crying that the government should stop impeding the free market and allow expanded sales of less energy-dense E15 year-round. Truth is, the last thing they want is a consumer-driven market because the corn ethanol interests are totally dependent upon the government to force increasing volumes of their product into gas regardless of actual consumer demand.

TAKE ACTION RIGHT NOW

There’s still time for Congress to step in and stop this dangerous proposal, but we need a full-court press. To borrow from President Trump’s playbook, sending messages on Twitter can be very effective.

Use this link to tell Congress to stop the proposed expansion of E15 and support the Consumer Protection and Fuel Transparency Act.

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