CSP.net: Why Boaters Hope to Sink E15-Industry group one of many supporting bills to cap ethanol content, change RFS

Feb 5, 2015
In The News

As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to weigh changes to the various biofuel blending requirements in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for 2014, there are a few bills before Congress that aim to push its hand on ethanol.

The most recent--the Renewable Fuel Standard Reform Act of 2015--would place a 10% blending cap on conventional gasoline, a move that has earned the endorsement of at least one major boating industry group.

Introduced this week by representatives Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Steve Womack (R-Ark.) and Jim Costa (D-Calif.), the bill would change the RFS in a few main ways:

  • Cap the ethanol blending level for regular gasoline at 10%.
  • Eliminate the requirement to use corn-based ethanol.
  • Require more advanced biofuels.
  • Require EPA to factor in real-world cellulosic ethanol production when setting blending requirements.

The same congressional sponsors introduced the bill back in 2013, but it failed to proceed in the House. For this go-around, it has earned the support of 50 different groups ranging from food, dairy and meat associations to motorcycle and boating groups such as the Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatU.S.), an Alexandria, Va.-based association representing recreational boat owners, with more than 500,000 members.

For BoatU.S., that 10% cap is important because the group is concerned about the possibility of boaters misfueling with E15. The 15% ethanol blend that has slowly been gaining traction as some small and large retail gas station and convenience store chains--most recently, Sheetz--have introduced or announced plans to add E15 to their fuel offer.

The EPA has approved E15 for use in vehicle models 2001 and newer, but not for marine engines or other small motors, and no marine engines in the United States are warrantied to use any ethanol blends higher than 10%. While E15 is currently only available at around 100 gas stations in 16 states--out of nearly 150,000 fueling sites in the United States total—the boating industry group cautions that, where available, it could prove to be irresistible. According to BoatU.S., nine out of 10 boaters own a trailerable boat, which they fill up most often at a conventional gas station, and that the higher ethanol blends such as E15 are often the lowest-priced fuels available.

Nicole Palya Wood, government affairs program manager at BoatU.S., said in a statement, "The new bill would recognize the failure of the current Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and its out of date ethanol-mandate, and make the necessary changes so there is a safe fuel for all gasoline powered engines."

BoatU.S. also supports the bill, Wood said, because it "allows for the investment in other more compatible biofuels, and erases the twisted math that forces more ethanol onto a marketplace that neither demands it, nor can physically absorb it at safe levels."

Tom Buis, CEO of Growth Energy, an ethanol industry advocacy group, said in a statement that the bill would only benefit the oil industry.

"The RFS Reform Act is nothing more than a way for Big Oil to prevent market access to a higher octane, price competitive product, such as E15," he said. "While E15 is a voluntary choice for consumers and retailers, oil companies know that E15 will provide consumer savings and superior engine performance that cuts into their bottom line and they will do everything in their power to stop it. This legislation is a wish list for opponents of the RFS who want to kill the RFS and all the successes Americans have realized as a result of the policy."