Kudos to the fishermen in Michigan for speaking out and winning the day, but boaters nationwide could be the losers in the continuing march of ethanol.
First, as outlined here in Dealer Outlook on Oct. 18, the four states and a tribal organization surrounding Lake Michigan recently announced major cutbacks on key fish-stocking programs of 27 percent in chinook (king salmon) and 12 percent for lake trout in 2017, with more to come in 2018.
“Not a good idea” has been the quick and loud response from anglers. Questioning the data basis for such decisions, and emphasizing the economic importance of these very popular fisheries, Michigan officials have responded positively by announcing a revised plan.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources now plans a smaller reduction in chinook, but while also decreasing stocking of coho salmon and lake trout. Officials say, with the new plan, anglers shouldn't experience any significant difference in the fishing action and the new plan should still meet the goal of keeping the overall fish population healthy.
What calls for a shoutout here is Michigan’s response to the recreational angling community’s concerns. Unlike the “in your face” federal regulatory decisions that ignore the negative impact on recreational anglers in the nation’s saltwater fisheries, sound and responsive policies by the states in overseeing America’s freshwater fisheries is the regulatory model to follow.
Making money with ethanol
While we’re handing out kudos today, the National Marine Manufacturers Association’s announcement that it is spearheading a coalition to continue to battle the harmful effects of E15 is good news.
The NMMA has drawn together small-engine manufacturers and consumer groups to submit to Congress suggested solutions to problems created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s inadequate misfueling mitigation plan.
The NMMA’s action couldn’t come at a better time. That’s because at the 2016 National Association of Convenience Stores convention in Atlanta last week, educational sessions by “experts” urged operators to cash in on the hundreds of millions of dollars in federal and state grants, credits and tax breaks currently available to help retailers fund their expansion into fuels like ethanol.
For example, Joel Hirschboeck, superintendent of commercial and alternative fuels for Kwik Trip, a Wisconsin-based convenience 500-store chain in three Midwest states, described how his company has aggressively pursued “alternative” fuels. Kwik Trip currently has 93 sites selling E85.
Reporting on the Atlanta convention, Convenience Store News noted that Robert White, vice president of industry relations for the Renewable Fuels Association, also addressed store operators. He told attendees they can upgrade their equipment (presumably to dispense more and higher blends) at almost no cost by taking advantage of tax credits and grants available.
The hard truth is federal and state governments have created the ethanol debacle in this country, in major part, by offering grants and tax credits to those offering “renewable” fuels like ethanol at the expense of millions of marine, small engines and auto owners. Congress should have repealed the Renewable Fuels Standard years ago when it became obvious that it was obsolete.
The NMMA, the American Petroleum Institute and others plan to press members of Congress to reform the federal Renewable Fuel Standard when lawmakers return for their 2016 lame-duck session after the Nov. 8 election. No question it will be a necessary uphill quest and dealers might be called upon to become engaged in the battle.