As acting Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler will soon learn, if he hasn’t already, reforming the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is critical to the economy and boaters. The recreational boating industry supports 650,000 American jobs and contributes $39 billion to the economy each year. And, approximately 142 million boaters take to the water annually.
Unfortunately, recent efforts to expand the sale of gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol — commonly known as E15 — at the pump year-round will put marine manufacturers and boaters at risk by making an unsafe and unreliable fuel choice universally available.
Boat engines and fuel systems cannot process E15 safely. However, according to a Harris Poll commissioned by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, only 20 percent of consumers notice ethanol content at a gas pump. Because 95 percent of boats are towable, most recreational boat owners are at risk of misfuelling at their local gas station.
In order to prevent the damage that the proposed E15 expansion would cause, the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) is calling on President Trump and the EPA to recognize the harmful effects of E15 on marine products and implement policies that expand renewable fuel options. A great place to start is breaking down all regulatory impediments to the full-scale commercialization of biobutanol — a biofuel that is more similar to gasoline than ethanol.
While EPA’s decision in June to allow the registration of biobutanol as a fuel additive is encouraging, additional commonsense steps are needed. NMMA sent a letter to EPA in June outlining two immediate actions: allow biobutanol blending with current gasoline base stocks and accept current refiners process transfer statements to include biobutanol blending. These measures will enable smaller gasoline blenders to get their products to gas stations and expand availability to boating consumers.
Unlike E15, which causes severe damage to marine engines, biobutanol delivers more renewable energy content than ethanol while remaining compatible with current vehicles, boats, and infrastructure. Biobutanol is far superior to ethanol in many ways, and, as our data shows, it is poised to be the next generation biofuel.
As we seek to reform the RFS and improve the lives of American businesses, consumers, and families, the administration should not rule out innovative solutions. By expanding access to more types of renewable fuels, like biobutanol, and making sure that consumers are aware of potential dangers, we can keep our economy strong, growing, and working for everyone.
• John McKnight is senior vice president of Environmental, Health, and Safety Compliance at the National Marine Manufacturers Association. Please follow @therealnmma.