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ACMA calls for more action on ethanol legislation

Ethanol and fishing were top of mind for association executives at yesterday’s annual meeting of the Advisory Council of Marine Associations in Orlando, Fla.

The ACMA is composed of marine trades association leaders from across the country and meets to identify and make recommendations to the MRAA board of directors for action. More than 20 marine trades associations were in attendance at the ACMA meeting.

The ACMA members labeled as a high priority threat to boating the current attempt by ethanol producers to have the EPA allow an increase of ethanol in gasoline from the current 10 percent (E10) to 15 percent (E15). Under the Clean Air Act, the sale of midlevel ethanol is prohibited, but the EPA is being lobbied hard to grant a waiver.

The problems E10 causes in marine engines are well established, notes Massachusetts dealer Ed Lofgren Jr., of 3A Marine Service. E15 would be disastrous. Moreover, ethanol creates environmental problems, decreases a car’s fuel efficiency, increases food prices, and the government pays a 45-cent subsidy for every gallon of ethanol blended into fuel. Washington should be abolishing the subsidy rather than thinking about increasing its use.

According to Larry Innis, MRAA’s Washington lobbyist, he and the NMMA’s Washington team and others are actively pushing back against the ethanol producers’ pressure. Sen. Susan M. Collins (R-Maine) has introduced S 1661, the Mid-Level Ethanol Blends Act of 2009, which will require the EPA’s Science Advisory Board to study the compatibility of E15 with marine engines. The study would also include a comprehensive analysis of independent scientific evidence of ethanol fuels with emission requirements of the Clean Air Act and the operability of engines.

To date, there are five co-sponsors of S 1666, but more are needed. ACMA has recommended the MRAA call on the nation’s boat dealers to write, e-mail or call their two senators and ask them to become co-sponsors of S 1666. Current sponsors include Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), Sen. Jim Webb (R-Va.), and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

“I’m convinced we can get this bill moving, but it will take a good grassroots effort to do it,” says Innis. “We hope dealers will step up now.”

In addition, the Coast Guard, concerned about potential safety hazards of ethanol fuels in boats, has a provision in an authorization bill, S 3619, calling for a study within six months of the use, safety and performance of blended fuels in marine applications and an assessment of fires and explosions on board vessels propelled by engines using blended fuels.

Meanwhile, the threats to recreational fishing along America’s coasts from actions by the National Marine Fisheries Service and others are becoming acute. Areas and fisheries being closed to anglers are multiplying at a historically fast pace. But the actions being taken are arbitrary and not based on any reliable scientific data, as required under federal law.

Accordingly, ACMA members are urging the MRAA to become more involved and aggressive in lobbying for fishing issues to support the efforts of organizations like the Recreational Fishing Alliance, among others. All boat dealers have a stake in protecting the rights of recreational anglers, so it’s very appropriate that the MRAA make fishing issues a priority in its legislative program, recommended the ACMA attendees.



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