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Bill to allow year-round sales of E15 dies in Senate committee

A bill dubbed the “Consumer and Fuel Retailers Choice Act,” which would have allowed for year-round sales of fuels blended with 15 percent ethanol, died in committee last week — something the recreational marine industry viewed as a win.

Politico Pro Energy (available by subscription only) reported that the Environment and Public Works chairman, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and bill author Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., withdrew S. 517 because it lacked the votes to emerge from committee.

“This is good news for boaters,” BoatUS government affairs manager David Kennedy told Trade Only Today. “It continues to highlight what we’ve got with this mandate and the broader fuel policy problem. It’s something BoatUS continues to work on.”

The National Marine Manufacturers Association said the withdrawal follows “countless meetings and discussions NMMA had with key Senate offices to ensure they knew of the damaging impacts of E15 on marine engines.”

The NMMA activated the industry's grassroots platform, Boating United, resulting in thousands of boaters throughout the country adding their voice to the issue.

Republicans such as Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., who opposed the bill, saw it as a chance to weaken the Clean Air Act, Politico Pro Energy reported.

Industry sources told the news outlet that Democrats had a string of their own plans to try to address concerns about higher food prices and increased air pollution.

The combined weight of the amendments under discussion ultimately sank the bill. "The original sponsor said the votes aren't there; I don't expect to see it this year," Barrasso told the outlet. Fischer agreed that the bill will not come up for a vote this year.

See Barrasso’s opening statement at the legislative hearing on S. 517 on June 14.

Marine industry groups continue to support legislation seeking to amend the Renewable Fuel Standard, the mandate that dictates rising blends of biofuels in the overall fuel supply. Amended in 2007 as part of the Clean Air Act, the rule was a reflection of the George W. Bush administration’s desire to rely less on foreign oil.

Though often framed by pro-ethanol interests as clean energy versus big oil, testing has shown E15, blends with 15 percent ethanol, are harmful to marine engines, as well as older cars and various small engines.

Negotiations on several pending pieces of legislation that would change the RFS are continuing, Kennedy said.

“The word we’re getting is that they’ve been tasked to work on this,” Kennedy said. “That highlights the challenges we have — to move something is always harder than to start something. Right now, the ethanol producers — the people who benefit from this mandate — just basically have to play defense. That said, this issue wouldn’t have gone on if so long it wasn’t such a compelling one beyond just boating. So we’re not going away on it.

“We were right in there with the NMMA. I think we’re all trying to get to the same thing,” Kennedy said. “We’re not anti-renewable fuels, but we need it to work for our boats — and right now it doesn’t. At least not well.”

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