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Red snapper, ethanol and praying for change

Let us pray for common sense.

Our first reading comes from the Book of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council that last week approved an unjustifiable plan to blatantly take away a significant percentage of the recreational angler’s share of red snapper and put it in an offering plate for the sole benefit of commercial charter boats. Lord, have mercy.

It’s clear the Gulf Council has never met a commercial fishing entity it didn’t like. So, they’ve chosen to ignore what they’ve described as “listening to hours of public testimony,” the overwhelming majority of which opposed robbing recreational anglers, and voted to hand the fish to commercial charter boats.

Specifically, the council approved a plan that divides the recreational share of Gulf red snapper into two distinct components — private fishing and for-hire fishing. Understand that of the total annual red snapper quota now, commercial fishermen get a 51 percent share and recreational anglers get 49 percent. Unjustifiably, this council’s action doesn’t take anything from the commercial allotment to give to the commercial charter boats, but takes it all from the recreational sector, thereby reducing the amount of red snapper recreational fisherman will be allowed to harvest.

How do you rationalize an irrational decision? They claim anglers paying a for-hire charter boat are really recreational fisherman. Hello . . . isn’t that like saying there’s no coo-ca-choo going on in a house of ill repute? Pay to play (I mean fish) is a commercial transaction. Charter boats and head boats are businesses.

Bottom line: It’s now possible that NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service will hand over up to 70 percent of the Gulf’s red snapper to a small number of commercial fishing and for-hire charter entities, leaving recreational anglers on the outside looking in. Clearly, now more than ever, we need to fight for major changes in the upcoming reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the federal law that dictates saltwater fisheries management.

Our second reading comes from the Book of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. The group recently sued the Environmental Protection Agency, alleging a failure to respond to a Freedom of Information Act request for records relating to how the EPA sets the amount of biofuels (including ethanol) refiners must blend into the nation’s gasoline supply. The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics advocates an increase. Lord, help us.

Any increase in ethanol in gas, to E15 for example, is a critical issue for the marine industry. The citizens group claims The Carlyle Group and Delta Airlines lobbied members of Congress and the Obama Administration to reduce the amount of ethanol and other biofuels that must be blended for 2014. The EPA denied a request for expedited review and has been slow to release the documents, the group claims.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington executive director Melanie Sloan suggests there’s been a back room deal orchestrated by Big Oil and high-ranking officials in the Obama Administration. The lawsuit also alleges that the EPA is delaying release of the 2014 Renewable Fuel Standard to “avoid potential political fallout in the midterms for siding with the oil industry over the biofuel industry.” White House adviser John Podesta recently hinted during a meeting with Senate Democrats, however, that the renewable fuel levels for 2014 would rise. Sloan asks: “Is the EPA slow-walking its release of these documents because it does not want the public to learn how political the RFS has become? CREW’s lawsuit will shed light on what really went on at the EPA.”

The whole question about the fuel standard has become like a Three Stooges pie fight — groups opposed to ethanol firing at ethanol producers wanting to keep more ethanol in, pitching at organizations like Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington that think biofuels are the answer to … well, something.

But Sloan is right when she says: “The RFS should be based on sound energy policy.” What she needs to also see is that the mandate to use food for fuel (corn ethanol) mandated by the fuel standard needs to be repealed or revised.

Perhaps some divine guidance is in order. Amen.



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