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EPA proposes new ethanol increase in fuel

The Environmental Protection Agency again has proposed increasing the amount of biofuels to be mixed into the gasoline supply.

The Environmental Protection Agency again has proposed increasing the amount of biofuels to be mixed into the gasoline supply, but at levels set below the Renewable Fuel Standard, the law that mandates the increases.

The EPA has slowed the increase of ethanol in the overall fuel supply in previous years from the requirements set forth in the 2007 RFS, but continues to set increases the law requires.

The EPA’s newest proposal increases the need for higher blends of ethanol to record levels in 2017, pushing further past the E10 blend wall, according to critics of the proposal. The blend wall is the term used for the maximum amount of ethanol in fuel that all engines can tolerate — which is E10, or 10 percent ethanol.

The biofuels industry also reacted angrily to the EPA’s proposal for a “modest increase,” as it fell well below the requirements set forth in the RFS, according to The Des Moines Register.

The newest increase edges the required amount of renewable fuel up from 18.11 billion gallons required in 2016 to 18.8 gallons in 2017. Of that, 14.8 billion gallons is designated as corn ethanol.

That will force an increase of 700 million gallons and endanger more consumers, including recreational boaters, said the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

“The 2017 RFS proposed ethanol volumes released by the EPA this week once again fail to meet basic marketplace realities and represent another step backwards with regard to this unworkable mandate,” the NMMA senior government relations spokeswoman Lauren Dunn said in a statement. “By increasing the required amount of ethanol to record levels in 2017, the EPA is not only denying consumers choice at the pump, but also putting the public at risk of misfueling.”

This week’s announcement will “only cause headaches for consumers who will no longer be able to obtain the low-ethanol and ethanol-free fuel blends they seek for their boats,” Dunn said.

In November 2013, the EPA first proposed scaling back the 2014 mandate to blend corn ethanol and more advanced biofuels into gasoline. However, the agency subsequently withdrew that 2014 proposal after the biofuels industry fiercely opposed it.

In the years since it has proposed increases each year that fell below the mandate Congress passed in 2007.

Because the RFS has the amount of ethanol flatly increasing — despite a large, unanticipated drop in fuel demand that continues year over year — critics say the increases set forth in the law are unrealistic and create more risk for older auto engines, boat engines and other small engines.

However, EPA acting head Janet McCabe maintained that the RFS was “a success story that has driven biofuel production and use in the U.S. to levels higher than any other nation.”

“This administration is committed to keeping the RFS program on track, spurring continued growth in biofuel production and use, and achieving the climate and energy independence benefits that Congress envisioned from this program,” she said in a statement.

Last year she told The Hill that the agency was “balancing two dynamics: Congress’ clear intent to increase renewable fuel over time to address climate change and increase energy security, and the real-world circumstances that have slowed progress toward these goals.”

At the time, Emily Cassidy of the Environmental Working Group — another group opposed to ethanol on grounds that its production is harmful for the environment — said the agency’s hands were tied.

“Congress needs to act to reform this broken policy,” Cassidy said.

Meanwhile, the NMMA said the new proposal will further promote expansion of E15 — “a known harmful fuel to marine and off-road engines, and still does not include any plans for the widespread public outreach efforts needed to educate consumers on the problems they may face, including engine damage, voided warranties and costly repairs.”

“As we’ve said before, the RFS is a broken law which sets unrealistic fuel mandates,” Dunn said. “And as we have done in the past, we again urge Congress to act swiftly by reforming the RFS in order to protect our industry and the others negatively affected by this decision. NMMA will be involved in the final rule-making process and looks forward to working with the EPA, our members and other stakeholders to deliver a common-sense rule that keeps the 88 million boaters safe on the water.”



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