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Senate committee considers broader E15 use

Senate hearing was held this week on a bill that would expand the sale of fuel blends with 15 percent ethanol.

A U.S. Senate hearing was held this week on a bill that would expand the sale of fuel blends with 15 percent ethanol through the summer months, making them available year-round.

The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held the hearing Wednesday on Nebraska Republican Sen. Deb Fischer’s Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act. Testimony was heard from a diverse panel of experts.

The National Marine Manufacturers Association and partners that include the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas and BoatUS submitted a letter for the record outlining the industry’s concerns about the bill.

“While the title of S. 517 contains the word ‘choice,’ passage of this legislation would effectively deny consumers choice at the pump, while also endangering their safety on the water,” an excerpt from the letter said. “There are 12 million recreational vessels registered in the United States. Ninety-five percent of these vessels are fueled at retail automotive service stations and are dependent on a safe and legal fuel supply to operate. Ensuring all consumers have access to approved fuels is absolutely critical to recreational boaters and anglers.”

Committee chairman John Barrasso, R-Wyo., referred in his initial questions to the NMMA’s letter directly and the issues it cited as a serious cause for alarm about expanding E15 sales at gas pumps.

Todd Teske, of Briggs & Stratton, whose company has conducted research about the impact of E15 on small engines, similar to studies done by NMMA member companies, echoed many of the recreational boating industry’s concerns.

Teske listed the damage E15 causes to small engines and the risk of misfueling that consumers face at the pump as top reasons for opposing the bill.

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