Letter: Biofuels policy must be changed
Posted on Dec 04, 2013 - 01:17 PM Printer Friendly View
On the heels of a historic government shutdown, our leaders in Washington have much to prove in terms of their ability to effectively legislate, and much confidence to win back from constituents. As a first order of business, Congress should focus on readdressing our nation’s biofuels policy, an over-reaching set of mandates creating serious problems for the nation’s 11 million motorcyclists and 265 million motorists.
Conceived in 2005 and expanded in 2007, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) allows the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to annually increase the amount of biofuels from corn and other biomass that must be blended into the U.S. gasoline supply. By 2022, 36 billion gallons of biofuel must be incorporated into our fuel—despite the fact that our nation’s infrastructure is incapable of handling higher levels of ethanol-blended gasoline.
This government meddling in America’s gas tanks is being fought by consumer advocates who warn of the engine damage—and even engine failure—that can result from the use of ethanol-blended gasoline.
Motorcycle manufacturers warn that riders could face degradation in performance, fuel economy and ride-ability due to the long-term use of fuels blended with greater than 10 percent ethanol.
Beyond motorcycles, fuel blends like E15 (gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol) pose serious risks to vehicles manufactured before 2001 and marine engines, as well as smaller engines, such as those in lawnmowers and chainsaws. Condensation created by E15 can wreak havoc on engines, resulting in corrosion, rust, clogging and deterioration of fuel system components. According to AAA, 95 percent of consumers have not heard of E15, demonstrating the potential for misuse as well as safety and liability issues.
The threat is so pervasive that automakers and AAA have warned consumers against using E15 due to safety concerns and potential engine damage—even in cars the EPA has approved for use of the fuel.
Concerned automakers including Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Mazda, Toyota, Nissan, Volkswagen, Volvo, BMW and Kia have all said their warranties would not cover damage related to gasoline blends higher than E10 due to its corrosive nature and potential to harm engines. Thus, owners are left completely responsible for costly repair bills due to this government decree.
Engine damage, higher costs and potential danger to millions of motorists are just a handful of the many unintended, yet grievous, consequences of the RFS. If this mandate is not changed, Americans will inevitably be forced to pay not only more at the pump, but for enormous repair and replacement costs towards motorcycle, auto, marine, snowmobile, lawnmower, chainsaw and other gasoline engines.
Thankfully, momentum around RFS reform is steadily increasing in Washington, D.C. And some lawmakers are listening. Virginia’s own Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-6th) has introduced the bipartisan RFS Reform Act, which eliminates corn-based ethanol requirements, caps the amount of ethanol that can be blended into conventional gasoline at 10 percent, and requires the EPA to set cellulosic biofuel blending levels according to actual production levels, rather than artificial targets. This commonsense fix for an out-of-control policy would spare both our engines and pocketbooks from being ravaged by ethanol.
Charles F. Finley Jr.
Executive Vice President