You can help reform the Renewable Fuel Standard

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So we think we have problems with E10 and E15? How does E30 or E40 grab you? It’s certainly being kicked around at the Environmental Protection Agency, according to Marine Retailers Association of the Americas’ Washington-based lobbyist Larry Innis.

Under MRAA president Matt Gruhn, the organization recently joined a coalition called “Smart Fuel Future” (www.smarterfuelfuture.org) that is spearheading a move to reform the ethanol mandate contained in the Renewable Fuel Standard. Other coalition members include BoatUS and the National Marine Manufacturers Association. And while the latter is reviewing options for possible continued litigation against EPA over its waiver to allow E15, the Smart Fuel Future coalition is on the attack to get the ethanol mandate in the Renewable Fuel Standard waived.

So just what is the Renewable Fuel Standard? Simply, it’s the root of the ethanol debacle.

In 2007, Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act, establishing the Renewable Fuel Standard by mandating a minimum quantity of ethanol be put into the nation's gasoline supply annually. Talk about pipe dreams? It was “sold” as a ticket to energy independence. They said it was good for the environment. It would even lower gas prices. Not! As we all know now, none of these are true and, in fact, ethanol takes more energy to produce than it produces.

In calling for Renewable Fuel Standard reform, the MRAA, NMMA and BoatUS aren’t alone. Another coalition of livestock and poultry groups is now after Congress to reform the standard. They are struggling to secure corn for animal feed as reduced supplies due to the drought push corn prices to a record high of $8 per bushel. In turn, we are also struggling with skyrocketing costs for basic foods. Still, the Renewable Fuel Standard mandates 40 percent of our diminished corn supply to ethanol production.

But this might be an opportune time to get reform. Enter the worst drought in the Midwest since the 1950s. It’s believed 89 percent of the nation’s corn crop has been affected by the drought. The harvest will be greatly reduced and it raises a serious new question for all of us: What should be government’s priority — affordable food or ethanol in our tanks?

Momentum for reform is growing. Petitions to waive the ethanol mandate in the Renewable Fuel Standard have been filed with the EPA by 156 members of the House, 25 senators and eight governors (from Arkansas, Virginia, Texas, North Carolina, Maryland, Georgia, Delaware, New Mexico). As a result, the EPA is currently seeking public comments until Sept. 26 on the petition. You can (should) weigh in urging a waiver to the Renewable Fuel Standard by visiting www.regulations.gov and submitting your comment today.

In spite of the overwhelmingly favorable arguments for waiving the Renewable Fuel Standard, it won’t be easy. Truth is the Renewable Fuel Standard is the Holy Grail for the ethanol producers and they’ll oppose any change. After all, the standard literally hands them a guaranteed market. It’s clearly why the producers didn’t cry foul when their ethanol tax credit recently expired so they could earn political “points” for a fight to keep the far more lucrative Renewable Fuel Standard.

Points or not, it’s past time for the EPA to recognize the folly of maintaining the Renewable Fuel Standard. The MRAA is calling on all state and regional marine trade associations to add their names to the “Smart Fuel Future” email list by going to www.smarterfuelfuture.org as well as encouraging their members to make comments to EPA by Sept. 26.

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