on March 27, 2015 at 9:47 AM, updated March 27, 2015 at 9:54 AM
The nation’s largest boating advocacy group has thrown its support behind a U.S. Senate bill that would do away with the law requiring ethanol produced from corn to be sold to American consumers.
BoatUS is urging its half-million members to contact their senators regarding S. 577, the Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act of 2015. The bill has been introduced into the chamber by Sens. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.)
S. 577 would remove the government mandate that forces refiners to add high percentages of corn ethanol to the fuel they produce. When the Renewable Fuel Standard became federal law in 2005, legislators assumed the nation’s fuel consumption would continue to climb, so they increased the overall ethanol requirements each year. In 2008, for instance, the mandate was nine billion gallons, but that number will climb to 36 billion gallons by 2022.
Americans’ gasoline use has actually declined since the mandate was implemented, however, forcing regulators to increase ethanol content to unsafe levels for some internal-combustion engines. In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency permitted E15 to be sold at the same stations offering E10. The higher-ethanol fuel is not permitted for use with marine engines, snowmobiles, motorcycles, lawnmowers, leaf-blowers or any vehicle manufactured before 2001.
E15 is currently sold in 16 states, leading to confusion and incompatible fueling among consumers.
Feinstein called the corn-ethanol mandate “unwise and unworkable.”
“Roughly 40 percent of corn in the United States is currently used for fuel, which increases the price of food and animal feed, while also damaging the environment,” she said. “Once we remove the corn-ethanol mandate, the RFS program can finally serve its intended purpose: to support the development of advanced, environmentally friendly biofuels like biodiesel, cellulosic ethanol and other revolutionary fuels.”
Under the RFS, refiners across the nation must meet four separate standards: advanced biofuel, cellulosic biofuel, biomass-based diesel and total renewable fuel, which is corn-based ethanol. S. 577 would eliminate that final standard.
Louisiana’s senior senator, David Vitter, supports the bill, which was introduced as an amendment to the Keystone XL Pipeline Act.
“The EPA’s corn-ethanol mandate has been failing for years, costing Louisiana consumers too much at the gas pump, the grocery store and for livestock feed,” he said.
In November, Vitter was critical of the EPA’s decision to further delay setting the ethanol-production levels to meet the RFS for 2014, even though the year was almost over. The mandate called for the RFS to increase to 14.4 gallons last year. At a 10-percent ethanol blend, however, only 13 billion gallons would have been consumed by American motorists.
For boaters, any level of ethanol is a concern because the manufactured fuel has great affection for water, according to LaPlace chemist Pete Landry.
“Ethanol is hygroscopic. It absorbs water. It’s like a water magnet,” he said.
Since boat fuel tanks are designed to vent into the atmosphere, they suck in high-humidity air with each night’s cooling period. That humidity bonds with the ethanol, eventually resulting in contaminated fuel that’s damaging to marine motors.
Many marinas sell non-ethanol fuel at substantially higher prices, but BoatUS says 60 percent of boaters fill their tanks at roadside stations. The vast majority of those offer no ethanol-free alternatives.
The organization has produced a letter that boaters can email to their senators. It’s available here.
Todd Masson can be reached at email@example.com or 504.232.3054.