Launch ramps in 2014 could become very lonely places.
That might sound good for those of you who eschew long lines but, unfortunately, if you own an outboard boat, you’ll be among those not at the ramps — when you’re unable to find (or afford) usable fuel.
Ethanol, a gasoline additive made from corn, is currently blended into gasoline at a 10 percent level. After some years of angst, adjustments and damaged outboard engines, the recreational fishing-boating community is living, if unhappily, with that much ethanol.
But for several years, we’ve also lived under a federal sword of Damocles — that of increasing ethanol levels to 15 percent (and higher). The general consensus is that boaters cannot live with that, since our engines won’t survive that level of ethanol.
The Environmental Protection Agency waived that increase again this year, but odds are it won’t, and in fact, under federal law can’t do so again in 2014.
The bottom line is either that federal law is changed or revoked by Congress, and soon; if not, our sport and its multibillion-dollar industries are in for some difficult times.
“That federal law” is the Renewable Fuel Standard of 2005. With the best of intentions, lawmakers felt that gradually increasing the proportion of renewable fuels to gasoline would help resolve one of our biggest concerns at that time: reliance on foreign petroleum.
So the RFS mandated that such fuels be blended into gasoline. Though ethanol is only one such alternative fuel — in fact, it owns about 90 percent of the RFS market. So we’re talking huge dollars — a tremendous boon to farm belt states where most corn is grown. Most legislators from those states will tell you ethanol is great, and the more the better. I’m not sure a lot of those legislators are avid anglers who run their own outboard boats.
In any case, what really makes the RFS a huge problem is the way it was set up. Keep in mind that, at the time, never ever had gasoline usage in this country done anything but go up, up, up, year after year. So the law specified how many gallons of ethanol each year would be added to gasoline.