In a clear victory for the marine industry — and many others impacted by the existing federal corn ethanol mandate — a group of 10 U.S. Senators introduced a bipartisan bill that would eliminate the federal government's rule that requires the corn-based fuel be included in the country's gasoline blend.
Originally intended as a means to boost the agricultural sector and reduce foreign oil imports while fostering a new American industry, the corn ethanol mandate has been vehemently opposed by many different factions of the economy including marine and powersports manufacturers that have claimed the common E15 blend (15 percent ethanol, 85 percent gasoline) is damaging to small engines and would lead to confusion among consumers. Detractors in the agribusiness and food production worlds have also argued that the mandate drives up food prices.
The proposed bill, the Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act of 2013, would amend the Clean Air Act to eliminate corn ethanol for use in renewable fuels and other purposes if passed. It was sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), along with eight co-sponsors from both political parties.
Ethanol has many friends, especially in agricultural states that have benefitted from the mandate. If passed, the Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act of 2013 would take affect "no later than 180 days after the date of enactment" and would be a major victory for the marine and powersports industries that have both expended significant resources to overturn the mandate and educate the public.
In a letter to President Obama, Sen. Feinstein said the letter would still require oil companies to "purchase and use low-carbon 'advanced biofuel.'" She added that the support of corn-based ethanol has caused the country to divert 44 percent of its corn crops from food to fuel — twice the rate in 2006 — and that it also damages the environment.
As part of its lobbying, the marine industry has argued that other fuels such as isobutanol could achieve the same benefits as corn-based ethanol without the negative impacts on small engines.
It is estimated that fuel refiners will still blend some amount of corn ethanol into the fuel supply as an octane booster to increase fuel efficiency, and because the price of ethanol is currently 65 cents per gallon less than the wholesale price of unblended gasoline.
The Marine Retailers Association of the Americas (MRAA) and National Association of Marine Manufacturers (NMMA) joined forty other organizations in writing a letter to both sponsors endorsing their actions.
Here's the letter:
December 11, 2013
Dear Senators Feinstein and Coburn:
The undersigned organizations support your legislation to end the federal requirement to blend up to 15 billion gallons a year of corn ethanol into gasoline.
The Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act of 2013 helps to address the consequences of a fuel mandate that is damaging our economy, driving up food prices at home and abroad, degrading our natural resources and endangering consumers while failing to achieve the energy independence once promised.
As Congress debates changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard, eliminating the corn ethanol mandate would alleviate the damage caused when the interests of one industry is favored above all.
We thank you for your leadership and look forward to working with you on this important issue.
American Bakers Association
American Frozen Food Institute
American Meat Institute
American Sportfishing Association
California Dairy Campaign
Clean Air Task Force
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Dairy Producers of New Mexico
Dairy Producers of Utah
Environmental Working Group
Georgia Poultry Federation
Grocery Manufacturers Association
Idaho Dairymen’s Association
Marine Retailers Assoc. of the Americas
Milk Producers Council
National Chicken Council
National Council of Chain Restaurants
National Marine Manufacturers Association
National Restaurant Association
National Taxpayers Union
National Turkey Federation
Nevada State Dairy Commission
North American Meat Association
Northwest Dairy Association
Oregon Diary Farmers Association
Southeast Milk Inc.
Specialty Equipment Market Association
Taxpayers for Common Sense
Washington State Dairy Federation