Three U.S. senators have co-sponsored a bill to eliminate the mandate to use corn ethanol in fuels, and early expectations are that the bill – similar to one that was never brought to a vote in the last session – will proceed toward passage.
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) is the primary sponsor, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Sen. Jeff Blake (R-AZ) are co-sponsors of S 577, The Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act of 2015. The bill does not cap the amount of ethanol required in motor fuels, but eliminates the corn ethanol mandate section of the Renewable Fuel Standard. It does not match Rep. Bob Goodlatte's Renewable Fuel Standard Elimination Act (H.R. 1461) and the Renewable Fuel Standard Reform Act (H.R. 1462), which were introduced in the U.S. House several weeks ago and address limiting ethanol to E-10.
Toomey and Feinstein began their bipartisan alliance in 2014 with a similar bill that was buried by the senate leadership. With this bill, they continue to work across party lines to address the flaws of the Renewable Fuel Standard and change its unrealistic fuel mandates requiring ethanol blends that are actually harmful to many small engines, plus outboard motors and automobile engines built before 2002.
The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) and the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) support the legislation wholeheartedly. The recreational boating and fishing community has experienced the problems associated with the RFS and ethanol fuels firsthand.
"The RFA supports this bill," said Jim Donofrio, executive director of the RFA. "Passage could lead to the elimination of the threat of E15 fuels being mandated for use in recreational boats and a rethinking of the entire Renewable Fuel Standard."
The Environmental Protection Agency is scheduled to release the 2015 Renewable Fuel Standards in June.
In a March 4, 2015 op-ed for Autoweek, car enthusiast and former Tonight Show host Jay Leno blasted the RFS and ethanol blended fuels. Leno said the caustic properties of ethanol fuels required replacing fuel-pressure regulators every 12 or 18 months on each of the vintage autos in his car collection to avoid car fires. Leno said the RFS must be reformed, especially the laws that mandate increasing levels of ethanol in the fuel supply.
Leno also bemoaned the shorter shelf life of fuel containing ethanol, an issue boaters have long complained about — particularly those in regions that have seasonal boating.
“If I run a car from the teens or ’20s and fill it up with modern fuel, then it sits for more than two months, I often can’t get it to start,” Leno wrote. “I just don’t see the need for ethanol. I understand the theory — these giant agri-business companies can process corn, add the resulting blend to gasoline and we’ll be using and importing less gasoline. But they say this diversion of the corn supply is negatively affecting food prices, and the ethanol-spiked gas we’re forced to buy is really awful.”