The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), along with American Petroleum Institute (API) and the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), held a conference call on Monday to discuss The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed increase for the Renewable Fuel Standard in 2017. The proposal calls for renewable fuel volumes of 18.8 billion gallons in 2017, a 3.8 percent increase from 2016 and an 11 percent increase from 2015.
The concern of all associations on the call comes from consumer awareness about the dangers of misfueling, the expense of repairs for consumers and a preference among some consumers for the availability of E0.
On July 11, the NMMA submitted comments to the EPA urging the agency to use its wave authority to lower the proposed volume to reflect actual market conditions and guarantee that boaters remain safe on the water.
In the 2017 proposal, “EPA has ignored consumer demand for ethanol-free gasoline options,” said said Michael Lewan, National Marine Manufacturers Association senior manager, government relations. “Objective analysis from the Energy Information Administration showed that Americans consumed 5.3 billion gallons of ethanol-free gasoline in 2015, yet EPA is proposing a mere 200 million gallons. This proposal is denying the boating public choice at the pump.”
According to Lewan, if you review the RFS proposal for 2017 in conjunction with the biofuels infrastructure program and the $100 million grant issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nearly 5,000 pumps will be installed across the country that will be able to dispense E15 to Americans, whether consumers are aware of it or not. This includes 892 pumps in Florida, a large boating market.
“We’re at the point where E15 will be spreading across the country at a much more significant volume than it has the last two years,” said Lewan, “and that is a significant concern for our industry and for our member companies, because we have not seen the correlating education and consumer outreach that needs to be done with such an introduction of a new fuel.”
Lewan said the NMMA has gone above and beyond the government’s call to assist against misfueling but asking manufacturers to study ethanol, partnering with awareness campaign such as the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute’s “Look Before You Pump” program, and endorsing alternative fuels like isobutanol. And yet studies show the public is uninformed: 31 percent of American understand that higher blends of ethanol can be harmful to small engines. A recent Boating Industry survey of its readers showed that ethanol repair issues are growing.
“A mere sticker on a gas pump won’t change the significant gap in consumer awareness. The EPA must do more and do more now,” said Lewan. “NMMA is hopeful that the EPA will address these very real concerns as it finalizes the 2017 RVOs and produces a more realistic and workable rule for all stakeholders.”
In its final rule for the RFS in November 2015, the EPA pledged to work with stakeholder groups and other government and non-government organizations, but Lewan said the NMMA has not heard from the EPA as of yet on creating a more comprehensive misfueling mitigation plan.
“The proposal breaks the blend wall and forces prohibitive blends like E15 onto the market, and yet next to nothing has been done to prevent a boat owner from misfueling his or her marine engine,” Lewan said.
Opposition to the RFS mandate has bipartisan support in Congress, and other opponents include livestock producers, anti-hunger groups, owners of restaurants and convenience stores and more. Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas, introduced HR 5180, the Food and Fuel Consumer Protection Act of 2016, which would require the EPA to cap the use of ethanol at 9.7 percent of the total volume of gasoline to be sold in a given year.
“Grassroots advocates submitted more than 513,000 comments to the EPA in opposition to the 2017 RFS proposal. Any policy that attracts such widespread criticism deserves immediate action, and API is calling on Congress to pass bipartisan legislation to fix this broken RFS policy,” said Frank Macchiarola, API downstream and industry operations group director.