Policy Watch

As many of our membership with boats and other small engine equipment know, there are serious and well-documented human safety, environmental, and technology concerns associated with ethanol blends over 10 percent in recreational boat fuel tanks and engines. Marine engines are only certified to run on fuel blends of E10 or lower; anything higher poses serious problems, including performance issues such as stalling, corrosion leading to oil or fuel leaks, increased emissions and damaged valves, rubber fuel lines and gaskets.  Many consumers, however, are unaware of these dangers, posing a real threat to the safety of 142 million American boaters and the products the industry supplies.

The U.S. House Energy and Commerce’s Environment Subcommittee held an April 13 hearing entitled “High Octane Fuels and High-Efficiency Vehicles: Challenges and Opportunities” that addressed issues surrounding E15’s impact on the marine industry; covered here by the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA). The hearing was a way for members of Congress to discuss the concept of having a new national octane standard for gasoline. A new, higher octane standard would allow for an increase in the amount of ethanol in some forms of gasoline and act as a compromise between the two largest industries at odds with ethanol levels; corn and oil.

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and the President are also currently evaluating changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) – the law that dictates ethanol levels in the nation’s fuel supply. And the ethanol industry is pushing hard to allow for the expanded year-round sale of E15 – an ethanol blend that is over the 10 percent safety threshold and is dangerous for many boats and other small engines.

Current regulations don’t allow E15 to be sold in the summer months because of the significantly increased air pollution it causes then. Of course, summer happens to be the most popular time of year for anglers and boaters to be on the water. If approved, these changes could lead to higher instances of misfuelling, engine damage, and unsafe boating situations. Our advocacy arm, Keep America Fishing recently sent out an alert to our members who are active on the ethanol issue and is here if you’d like to take action.

However, EPA has been granting a significant number of waivers for refiners to not be required to meet their mandates for the RFS. The Energy Policy Act of 2005, which authorized the RFS, requires refiners to mix in ethanol and other renewable fuels at certain levels into gasoline to equal 15 billion gallons in the U.S. fuel supply total; a number which could be affected by the waivers.

With mixed signals from the administration over the last year regarding the future of ethanol in the U.S. fuel supply, ASA is staying active with our boating colleagues at NMMA and BoatU.S. in monitoring the latest and how we can advocate for the EPA to revise the labeling requirements for ethanol fuel blends exceeding 15 percent, implement a consumer education campaign to raise awareness, and approve the registration of isobutanol as a gasoline additive in order to expand access to innovative, renewable fuels that do not pose a threat to consumer safety.

For more information, please contact Policy Fellow, Ashley Brinkman.