New data was released showing an increase in demand for fuel without any ethanol, commonly called E0.
The National Marine Manufacturers Association and the American Petroleum Institute held a conference call Wednesday to release data to the media that it plans to share with the Obama administration as the Environmental Protection Agency prepares to issue 2014, 2015 and 2016 guidelines for ethanol blends.
“The marine industry is one of the many American businesses being damaged by RFS,” NMMA vice president of public policy Nicole Vasilaros said during the call.
Gasoline with 15 percent ethanol blended into it — also known as E15 — “is one of the biggest threats facing the recreational boating industry,” she said.
As demand for fuel with higher ethanol blends waned, demand for E0 increased from an all-time low of about 2 percent in May 2012 to between 7 and 10 percent in 2014, the data showed.
Because ethanol-related damage to boats, engines and other parts often voids warranties and leaves boaters with hefty repair bills, consumers are turning to E0 to power vessels, Vasilaros said.
The data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, with API analysis, was consistent with methodology provided by the federal Office of Management and Budget, according to the chart.
“The demand in E85 has been flat, despite more stations offering E85,” API downstream group director Bob Greco said during the call. “The EPA wrongly projected an increase. The fact remains that consumers don’t want it.”
The growing demand for E0 comes from boaters and people seeking lower blends for lawn equipment, recreational vehicles and classic cars, Greco said.
“Demand for E0 is strong and growing, and EPA must take this into account as it prepares to release biofuel mandates for 2014, 2015, and 2016,” he said. “The point of this chart is to show there seems to be a minimum level of ethanol that consumers want, and that seems to vary between 3 and 7 percent. The EPA needs to better assess this and accurately assess E0.”
The data will be important to present to the EPA as it decides how to administer ethanol-blend guidelines for 2014, 2015 and 2016, Greco said.
The agency has not met deadlines for the past two years on issuing the guidelines. Administrators have vowed to issue guidelines for all three years on June 1.
In November of 2013 the EPA proposed to decrease the amount of renewable fuel required to be blended into the fuel supply for the first time — a move that was met with sharp criticism from ethanol interests, who said the agency was pandering to large oil companies. A watchdog group later sued the group.
The EPA said it sought to roll back the amount of ethanol required by the 2007 Renewable Fuel Standard because it had hit a “blend wall.” “We are acknowledging the blend wall has been reached. We’re making an estimation of a reasonable amount of ethanol that can be consumed with the current system in place,” Chris Grundler, director of the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, said in testimony at the time.
Leading up to the EPA’s proposed rollback was a backlash against a proposed increase in the ethanol blend, as the RFS requires. “The EPA’s hands are truly tied,” NMMA lobbyist John McKnight said at the time. “They have a mandate from Congress, so this is what they have to do. Under the RFS, we’re supposed to have 36 billion gallons of ethanol in the fuel supply by 2022, which, based on projections, is technically unfeasible.”
If the EPA does administer the fuel mandate as written, it would threaten the availability of E0, Vasilaros said.
“The continued availability of E0 is threatened,” she said during Wednesday’s conference call. “If it were to disappear from the marketplace and E15 continues to expand,” boaters will face “serious and well-documented safety, environmental and technical difficulties.”
That will threaten the $121 billion recreational boating industry, which supports 650,000 U.S. jobs and 35,000 businesses, she said.
“For us, it is critically important that we work with Congress to fix the RFS,” she said.