Editor's note: An earlier version of this print column appeared as a blog on BoatingIndustry.com.
The Renewable Fuel Standard (and the increased use of ethanol it requires) has long been a concern for the boating industry.
Study after study by the industry has shown the damage E15 can cause to marine engines and other small engines.
And recent decisions by the EPA on RFS volume obligations have only exacerbated the issue, guaranteeing more E15 will make it into the marketplace as more ethanol is blended into the nation’s fuel supply, according to the NMMA. (Read more here.)
That decision highlighted the need for a legislative answer to the problem – reforming or replacing the RFS with a more sensible solution. There are several bills percolating in Congress, many of which are supported by NMMA, MRAA, BoatUS and others in the industry — and we’ll take a deeper look at those in our annual government issue in April.
There are a number of reasons to be optimistic that something can finally happen this year, but one development that caught my attention was Ted Cruz’s win in the Iowa caucuses in February (a few days ago, as I write this). On one hand, he fits the profile of a lot of past winners on the Republican side in Iowa — conservative, appeals to evangelicals, etc. But there is one big difference: Cruz came out against the Renewable Fuel Standard and its ethanol requirements.
That’s something that once spelled certain electoral doom in the nation’s first caucuses. Ethanol has often been called the “third rail” of Iowa politics — touch it and you die. The so-called “ethanol pledge” was something every candidate who hoped to win in Iowa would make, promising to continue supporting those ethanol requirements the Renewable Fuel Standard.
His opposition even had Iowa’s Republican governor, Terry Branstad, calling for Cruz’s defeat in the state.
Despite all that, he won, indicating that perhaps ethanol will not be the dominant factor it has been for years in Iowa politics.
The more cynical of us would be inclined to posit that the only reason ethanol has had so much support for so long is Iowa’s outsized impact on the presidential race.
After all, the Senate has often been described as 100 people who believe they’re going to be president some day — and for years the message was if you want to win Iowa, don’t mess with King Corn.
So maybe, just maybe, it’s a sign we’re headed in the right direction.