|Follow the Science on Mid-Level Ethanol Blends|
What do the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), the American Meat Institute, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the National Petrochemical Refiners Association all have in common? All agree that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should not approve corn ethanol blends in gasoline that are higher than the currently allowable E10 unless and until independent, rigorous and verifiable scientific testing has been completed. What’s more, testing must conclude that mid-level ethanol blends will not pose a risk to all gasoline-powered engines, public health, the environment and consumers. In fact, a diverse collection of more than 50 environmental groups, conservation organizations, business associations and public interest organizations have banded together to urge the EPA to deny a petition request by the ethanol industry that would allow “mid-level ethanol blends” to be introduced into commerce for general sale.
Boaters in most states have experienced firsthand the problems created by the introduction of gasoline with 10 percent ethanol, or E10. The impacts on engines, fuel lines, gas tanks and other parts of a boats’ fuel systems are well documented and have forced boaters to make major repairs after being caught unaware of the change and potential problems. But, for the most part, the industry has addressed this as marine manufacturers have adjusted certain processes and manufacturing techniques over time.
Now, the ethanol industry is asking the EPA to approve blends higher than E10, including mid-level blends of E12, E15 or E20. There are 13 million registered boats in this country with engines that are not designed, calibrated, certified or warranted to operate with ethanol blends above E10. And, that is just the beginning. If you have other gasoline-powered off-road vehicles, gasoline-powered tools or other gasoline-powered small engines, neither are they! In fact, there are more than 400 million gasoline-powered products today that were never made to run on mid-level ethanol blends.
Now, don’t get me wrong. We are not opposed to ethanol. And, like our allies from a diverse coalition of interests, we want clean air and water, and a cleaner environment. But it is far from clear that mid-level ethanol blends will give us any of those things. Early testing has shown it will give boaters more headaches and potentially destroy marine engines already in use. So, all we ask is that the EPA do the testing, as required by federal law, and follow the science before rushing to a judgment.
In early December, in an announcement that it was delaying a decision on the ethanol industry’s petition to approve E15, the EPA functionally acknowledged widespread concerns about E15 on the environment, engines and consumers by indicating they needed more test data than is currently available. The EPA has not conducted any studies on marine engines or on a wide variety of other non-road engines, although our industry clearly welcomes such testing and hopes it will soon be underway.
The NMMA’s view, as the boat and engine manufacturers’ trade association, is that no decision should be made on E15 until all independent scientific studies confirm that it is compatible with both on-road and non-road vehicles. Even the U.S. Coast Guard has opposed the waiver request expressing “concerns related to a possible reduction in the level of safety for recreational boaters should the waiver be granted.”