New Florida Law Challenges Federal Ethanol Standards

Jul 8, 2013

Credit Rama/ Creative Commons

On July 1, close to 200 new Florida laws went into effect, one of which is a direct challenge to Federal fuel regulations.

And one unexpected beneficiary is the recreational boat user.

Florida struck down the following part of its Renewable Fuel Standard Act:

“Each terminal supplier, importer, blender, and wholesaler shall also include in the report to the department the number of gallons of blended and unblended gasoline.”

Effectively, this means that no gas supplier in Florida is obliged put ethanol in their fuel.

Ethanol in gasoline is a contentious issue. Environmentalists are divided on whether or not using ethanol in gas reduces harmful fuel emissions. 

But the United States still supports the usage of blended gasoline. Currently, the federal Renewable Fuel Standard hopes to boost the volume of renewable fuel to 36 billion gallons by 2022, in comparison to 9 billion gallons in 2008. It encourages states to use fuel that is 10 percent ethanol.

One group advocating for this legislation change in Florida was Boat US, a member-based organization that provides services for recreational boat users. That’s because boats, particularly boats not used on a regular basis, can be damaged by blended gasoline through a chemical process known as “phase separation.”

On a boat, inevitably water gets into the gas tank.  When there is blended fuel in the tank, the water binds to the ethanol, and separates itself from the gasoline.  And then when the engine is cranked, the water and the ethanol enter the engine first, leading to engine failures.

Old cars and motorcycles also have engines not designed for digesting ethanol-based fuels, so this new legislation change will be helpful for Harleys and old VW bugs.

While the law is technically in the books, it will take time for gas distributors and retailers to coordinate the change before consumers will feel the effects at the pump.