Battle lines drawn in fight over fuel standards

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Last Thursday, I urged getting behind a petition under consideration at the Environmental Protection Agency to reform the Renewable Fuels Standard. It prompted some great dialogue, as the subject of ethanol always does. And while there was some disagreement about any real environmental benefits from ethanol, there was full agreement that it can destroy hundreds of thousands of engines from marine to mowers.

The Marine Retailers Association of the America’s Washington lobbyist Larry Innis backs up my statement that any revision of the fuel standard won’t be easy. Apparently the battle lines have clearly been drawn.

The Glover Park Group, a Washington lobbying firm, has reportedly been hired by pro-ethanol interests to wage a multimillion-dollar campaign opposing any changes to the current fuel standard, according to E&E Publishing’s Greenwire (www.eenews.net). What’s notable is that Glover Park is the same lobbying group that was hired to do the exact opposite in 2008 i.e. quash support for the Renewable Fuels Standard mandate and ethanol.

Writing in Greenwire, Amanda Peterka reported that an ethanol industry insider revealed Glover Park was hired by Growth Energy (a familiar ethanol group), DuPont and the Renewable Fuels Association. The latter group’s president Bob Dinneen reportedly said in a June blog post that “wolves were at the door of the U.S. ethanol industry,” an obvious reference to the growing demand that the EPA waive the existing fuel standard that mandates ethanol be blended in gasoline supplies.

A key reason for the heightened call for Renewable Fuels Standard reform is the drought that’s negatively impacted more than 80 percent of this year’s corn crop. Still, some 40 percent of the corn crop will go into ethanol. Moreover, the nation’s poultry and livestock industries are facing record high prices for corn feed. That, in turn, has triggered higher food prices and raised a long and overdue discussion about whether we can really justify putting our food in our gas tanks?

Here’s a twist: the ethanol industry blamed Glover Park for creating the food vs fuel debate when it represented the Grocery Manufacturers Association and lobbied in opposition to ethanol back in 2008. In fact, Growth Energy’s website labels the food vs fuel debate “pure fiction” and attributes it to something “spun by a wealthy industry group (the Grocery Manufacturers Association) through a well-connected D.C. public relations shop (Glover Park).”

But now, Glover Park will get big bucks to discredit the food vs. fuel debate it supposedly created. Greenwire reports Glover Park’s strategy will be to make the fuel standard a partisan issue by building support with Democrats for ethanol and biofuel support.

It’s also notable that the National Marine Manufacturers Association joined the Grocery Manufacturers Association and other concerned organizations in suing the EPA to stop the increase of ethanol from E10 to E15. Sadly, a D.C. court coped out of rendering a decision simply by dismissing the suit without ever considering the case.

Possible continued litigation notwithstanding, it’s clear the road leading to a much-needed reform of the Renewable Fuels Standard will be a tough one, with well-funded opposition at every turn. Still, it’s an issue on that boating interests must weigh in on. So again, I encourage you to learn more by getting on the email list at www.smarterfuelfuture.org and going to www.regulations.gov to submit your comment to EPA.

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