House bill aims to reform Renewable Fuel Standard

A bill that would help ease ethanol mandates was introduced in the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

Reps. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., Peter Welch, D-Vt., Steve Womack, R-Ark., and Jim Costa D-Calif., introduced the Renewable Fuel Standard Reform Act, which would reform the biofuel mandate.

Welch called the original renewable fuel legislation “a well-intentioned flop” in a statement announcing the bill.

“From food costs to wear and tear on the family car or lawnmower, the RFS means added costs and less money for other purchases,” Goodlatte said. “It certainly impacts the cost of doing business for many, but it’s the consumers who ultimately shoulder the costs of this broken policy.”

Michael Lewan, grassroots and government relations manager for the National Marine Manufacturers Association, alerted members Tuesday to the bill during a webinar designed to brief the boating industry about issues affecting the boating industry during the 114th Congress.

Boating United, an online grassroots platform that the NMMA started about a year ago, plans to launch an initiative around the campaign, Lewan said. He didn’t give an exact timetable, but said he was “95 percent sure we’ll be doing something substantial in the next week or so” around the bill.

BoatUS urged boaters to support the bipartisan legislation.

“The new bill would recognize the failure of the current Renewable Fuel Standard and its out-of-date ethanol-mandate and make the necessary changes so there is a safe fuel for all gasoline-powered engines,” BoatUS government affairs program manager Nicole Palya Wood said in a statement.

“The RFS Reform Act acknowledges the reality of America’s declining fuel consumption, allows for the investment in other more compatible biofuels and erases the twisted math that forces more ethanol onto a marketplace that neither demands it nor can physically absorb it at safe levels,” Wood said.

Agricultural groups, such as Southeast AgNet, are saying Goodlatte is putting the interests of “big oil” ahead of the nation's corn farmers.

Supporters of the bill say E15, or gasoline that is 15 percent ethanol, has been proven to damage marine and other small engines. No marine engines in the country are warrantied to run on any gasoline blend that contains more than 10 percent ethanol, or E10.

According to AAA, only about 12 million of the more than 240 million light-duty vehicles on the roads today are approved to use E15 gasoline, based on a survey conducted by AAA of auto manufacturers. Any damage from the use of fuels with blends 15 percent or higher in cars and trucks will void many manufacturers’ warranties.

The Renewable Fuel Standard, which was amended in 2007, was written with the assumption that fuel consumption would increase. However, declining fuel consumption has made the mandate to have 36 billion gallons of ethanol in the fuel supply by 2022 untenable, the NMMA has said.

The Environmental Protection Agency proposed to reduce the mandatory amount of ethanol in the 2014 fuel supply. That was a short-term change; the standard would need to be amended or repealed by Congress to address the E10 “blend wall,” or what many industries say is the maximum amount of ethanol that many engines can handle.


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