Bill would require marine-engine ethanol study

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A bill headed to the U.S. House of Representatives calls for a study of blended fuels in marine applications.

H.R. 2652, the Maritime Safety Act of 2009, is sponsored by Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., and Section 23 of the bill calls for the study. The bill received a favorable report from the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, which is chaired by Oberstar.

"We think this is a good study, we think its doable and we think that in general there should be more studies, research and  investigation into the impacts of mid-level ethanol and E10," Matthew Dunn, legislative director for the National Marine Manufacturers Association told Soundings Trade Only this morning.

"We would be interested to see what the Coast Guard could do and what they would find out based on the relatively narrow scope here, which seems to be safety and consumer applications of blended ethanol," he added. "But we would emphasis with respect to the federal government allowing a new blend, like E15, that additional research would need to be done to make that determination and it would need to be done by the appropriate federal agencies."

Specifically, the act calls for a survey, not more than 180 days after the enactment of the act, of published data and reports pertaining to the use, safety and performance of blended fuels in marine applications, including in recreational marine engines.

Not later than three years following the enactment of the act, a comprehensive study would be conducted on the use, safety and performance of blended fuels in marine applications.

The study would include the impact of blended fuels on the operation, durability and performance of marine engines; the safety impact of blended fuels on consumers that own and operate marine engines; and fires and explosions on board vessels propelled by engines using blended fuels.

The act appropriates $1 million for the survey and study.

Dunn noted that the study does not specify what kind of ethanol blends would be studied, though the question today is should the government move forward with higher ethanol blends, such as E15.

"E10 has pretty much saturated the market and there's no going back," Dunn said.

Boating industry officials are concerned about a request to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that seeks to raise the amount of ethanol blended into gasoline from 10 percent to 15 percent. The boating industry says it harms marine engines and that no tests on the impact of E15 have been conducted.

The EPA recently announced it was extending the comment period on the issue to July 20. The agency says it is required to make a decision by Dec. 1.

— Beth Rosenberg

b.rosenberg@tradeonlytoday.com

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