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Marine industry wants in on ethanol discussions

Boaters who fill up at inshore pumps are at risk for unwittingly using E15, which the U.S. Department of Energy says is harmful to boat engines.

Boaters who fill up at inshore pumps are at risk for unwittingly using E15, which the U.S. Department of Energy says is harmful to boat engines.

A coalition that includes marine industry groups is telling the Trump administration that it should have been part of discussions designed to come to an agreement on the Renewable Fuel Standard, the mandate requiring refiners to mix biofuels like corn-based ethanol into the fuel supply.

“As we move forward to address this broken policy, we would remind decision-makers that any meaningful reform must include the broad range of stakeholders and American values that have suffered under the RFS,” the coalition wrote in a joint statement. “We urge Congressional leaders to engage in an inclusive process for action on the ethanol mandate.”

The National Marine Manufacturers Association, as part of the National Taxpayers Union, says the discussions should be more inclusive. The coalition, which opposes the RFS in its current form, includes a variety of stakeholders, from the Sierra Club to those representing the marine industry and chain restaurants.

President Trump has called for more talks between representatives of the oil and corn industries after a meeting on Tuesday failed to yield an agreement about the rule, according to a Reuters report.

The policy, which was intended to help farmers and reduce reliance on foreign countries for fuel, has divided farmers and energy companies — both key Trump supporters.

A refining company in the key electoral state of Pennsylvania last month blamed the RFS for its bankruptcy, according to Reuters.

In late 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency opted to raise ethanol levels consistent with the amount required by the 2007 Renewable Fuel Standard, though the agency had initially proposed targets beneath that level.

The NMMA, along with several boating and fishing industry groups, opposed the move, citing reports by the U.S. Department of Energy showing blends with more than 10 percent of ethanol, E15 and higher, were harmful to marine engines.

When the RFS was amended in 2007, it was written with the assumption that fuel consumption would increase, according to NMMA lobbyist John McKnight. But two things happened.

New corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards have required cars to become more efficient, and fuel consumption declined for the first time since the Industrial Revolution.

Because of the drop in consumption, the most recent increase would mean the so-called blend wall will be breached. 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.

“For the last 10 years, the current Renewable Fuel Standard has proven time and time again that it has not been working for the American public,” wrote the coalition in its joint statement.

“From consumers forced to pay more for their food and shoulder the burden of engine failure, to makers of truly advanced fuels that have been undermined by the ethanol mandate, to the wildlife that have seen their habitats disappear, to the fisheries and drinking water supplies that have been fouled by chemical runoff, to all federal taxpayers who pick up the tab for distorted energy and agricultural markets, these impacts have been pervasive and affected far more facets of society than the two industries represented in today’s White House discussions.

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