Ethanol ain't all it's cracked up to be!

By Bob Rees of Milwaukie, OR. Bob is the Executive Director of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders, 6th generation Oregonian, and a 26 year professional fishing guide.

Across the country, fishing may be seen as a relaxing hobby. But as we know it in Oregon and Clackamas County, it’s a way of life. The Northwest Steelheaders work to protect responsible and enjoyable sport angling with good access to healthy, abundant and sustainable fisheries in the Northwest’s healthy watersheds.

But Big Ethanol and their champions in the Corn Belt continue to come up with new ways to try and subsidize/mandate the use of corn based ethanol in our fuel that threaten fisheries and anglers. A new bill was recently introduced in front of Senator Merkley in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that would violate Clean Air Act rules to allow the sale of fuel with 15% ethanol (E15) year-round. Pushing more E15 fuel onto the market may be a favor to the ethanol lobby, but it will jeopardize our natural environment, the livelihoods of sport fishers and the safety of consumers throughout Oregon. Thankfully, this bill, S.517 did not advance, but we know Big Ethanol will be back and we should all be aware of what their attempts could mean for us all.

Flooding E15 fuel into the market will put any boat owner at risk. Fuels that contain more than 10 percent ethanol are known to cause unintended clutch engagement, corrosion and rubber swelling in engines — especially the small engines we use on our boats. If this bill passes, these engines will be at risk of damage, and those of us who rely on them will be stuck with the costs.

Furthermore, the continued subsidization of corn ethanol is a losing proposition for the environment. Already, increased use of corn ethanol has contributed to the conversion of more than 7 million acres of grasslands and wetlands, and other habitat to into corn production. This has worsened water quality, and wildlife and fish have suffered.

Now is not the time to double down on a bad environmental policy that will also endanger boat owners and their property. Senator Merkley should continue to fight bad policy like S.517 and help us Oregonians continue our sportfishing and summer adventures — while protecting our wallets and our fish runs.

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