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Sucking up to farmers puts boaters in danger

Trying to grasp why President Trump does what he does often calls for a lot of head-scratching. Actually, whenever any elected official in Washington does something dense I can’t help but think cha-ching.

It’s perfectly understandable that Trump was enthusiastically greeted two nights ago at a Tampa, Fla., rally. There were big cheers for the hot economy, increased border security and for his position that America’s indulgence of Europeans’ free defense ride has worn out.

But while not specifically mentioned in his hour-long talk, my mind kept going to his pronouncement last week that he is “very close” to allowing the sale of E15 year-round. For me, it’s not unreasonable to conclude that, because American farmers are upset with the trade/tariff games playing out, Trump is sucking up to the farmers by essentially increasing their sale of corn for ethanol production. So they’ll sell less soybeans but cash in with corn husks.

If you feel as if our industry has been fighting a corn ethanol battle forever, I’m with you. As a reminder, in 2005 Congress passed the Renewable Fuel Standard requiring blending biofuels — mainly corn ethanol — into our gas supply. In 2010 the EPA upped the game from E10 by permitting E15 into the marketplace. And now sales would be expanded into the summer months.

This expansion comes despite the fact that it’s widely recognized that ethanol really doesn’t offer any environmental, energy or other benefits, except for those cashing in on record corn prices.

The National Marine Manufacturers Association has led the fight to get several administrations and Congress to understand recreational boating’s problems with higher ethanol blends. It’s proven that E15 will damage boat engines, making it vital that E10 and ethanol-free gasoline continue to be readily available. Even more, the entire RFS is broken, and the premise for its passage is now more divorced from reality than “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”

“President Trump’s pledge to allow the year-round sale of E15 will needlessly put consumers in danger, including the 142 million American boaters that take to the water every year,” NMMA president Thom Dammrich says. “There’s a reason previous proposals to expand the sale of E15 have failed — it’s simply bad policy.”

Most consumers don’t know about the risks of high-ethanol fuel blends, and expanding sales into the summer months will only do more harm. Sixty-five percent of people assume that any gas sold at retail gas stations is safe despite the fact that federal regulation prohibits E15 use in small engines. These engines — in boats, lawn mowers, motorcycles and more — suffer immediate damage when fueled with blends exceeding 10 percent ethanol, voiding warrantees and saddling consumers with high repair and replacement costs.

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“We need to educate the public about the hazards of misfueling before even thinking about expanding E15 sales,” Dammrich says.

To that end, Reps. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) and Austin Scott (R-Ga.) have introduced the Consumer Protection and Fuel Transparency Act of 2018.

“This bill requires the EPA to revise the labeling requirements for ethanol fuel blends exceeding 10 percent and implement a consumer education campaign to raise awareness,” Dammrich says. “NMMA is calling on all members of Congress to support this important legislation. Expanding E15 sales before sufficient consumer protections are in places is reckless.”

Meanwhile, dealers can become involved in the education effort with customers by participating in the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute’s “Look Before You Pump” campaign. OPEI is offering free hangtags to help promote the use of E10 or less fuel. These are great for dealerships, inserting in owner manuals/packages, having at boat shows, etc.

Fill out this form, and OPEI will ship your requested amount of hangtags, while supplies last. Also, “Look Before You Pump” materials, including infographics and rack cards, can be found the NMMA’s Advocacy Marketing Kit.

Help ensure that your customers use the appropriate boat fuel.

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