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Sunshine State News: Reform Federal Renewable Standard in Washington

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

By: Ned Bowman

We constantly hear about various regulatory or legislative issues in Washington with the hope that something will be done to correct any given problem, but all too often the result is caught up in conflicting opinions or politics and never resolved.

It’s no surprise to see that the federal Renewable Fuel Standard has been one of these very problems and will continue to be an issue for presidential candidates this coming election.

To date, 95 percent of our nation’s fuel supply contains up to 10 percent ethanol, 80 percent is made from corn. Our nation has been fortunate to continue to recover economically and as a result has become more self-sufficient overall, including the ability to fulfill our fuel demand for vehicles and machinery.

The market demonstrates that we are capable of providing a fuel product without requiring an ethanol mandate. The corn lobbyists in Washington are not happy about this situation, because that means potentially less money for their farmers, so they are continuing to push for steady increases on ethanol requirements.

However, ethanol is not proving to be a viable alternative to fuel. Many groups, including AAA for example, have warned that the ethanol mandate could be harmful to consumers by damaging all types of engines as well as putting motorists at risk for voided vehicle warranties.

In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) prohibits the use of Ethanol-15 (E15) in conventional vehicles built prior to 2001 model year as well as all motorcycles, school buses and delivery trucks. The DOE also prohibits the use of E15 in small engines such as those found in boats and other off-road vehicles and in equipment like chainsaws and lawn mowers due to the risk of ruining the engines.

Florida has the second highest employment rate in the nation of landscapers and groundskeepers, whose equipment cannot run on or be safely stored with ethanol-blended gasoline. More than 986,000 boats are registered in Florida and those are also at risk of engines being destroyed if Congress continues to support the federal ethanol mandate and allows for its aggressive expansion.

We have seen the backlash this policy has created on related industries and on our daily lives between repair cost, to increased food costs and more. The Florida Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association and other like-minded organizations such as the American Motorcyclist Association and the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute are speaking out against the ethanol mandate on behalf of all of our members and demanding that legislators and political candidates take a stance to reform this law immediately.

Florida was the first state to recognize the ills of ethanol when it repealed the Florida Renewable Fuel Standard Act in 2013. Recently, lawmakers in Hawaii followed Florida’s lead by repealing their state mandate that required a certain percentage of ethanol be blended into all fuel.

Our state’s foresight has not had an impact in Washington, D.C., thus far and we need candidates like Marco Rubio and potential candidate Jeb Bush to go on the record to reform this policy.

Ned Bowman is executive director of the Florida Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association.

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