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12/01/2016
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Your Weekly Biker Bulletin from Inside the Beltway
Motorcycle Riders Foundation

 

Your Motorcycle Riders Foundation team in Washington, D.C. is pleased to provide our members with the latest information and updates on issues that impact the freedom and safety of American street motorcyclists. Count on your MRF to keep you informed about a range of matters that are critical to the advancement of motorcycling and its associated lifestyle. Published weekly when the U.S. Congress is in session.

 

Congressional Hearing Examines Implementation Issues of Higher Ethanol Blends

 

On Wednesday, the Energy & Commerce Committee held a hearing regarding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), a provision of the Clean Air Act that was expanded in 2007. The RFS sets targets and timetables for four categories of renewable fuels to be added into the nation’s transportation fuel supply. One of these categories is “total renewable fuel” which includes corn-derived ethanol. The EPA has established enforceable volumes for how much “total renewable fuel” must be used, which in turn, results in higher percentages of ethanol blended fuel introduced into the nation’s fuel supply. The hearing examined implementation issues with the latest targets and timetables set by the EPA.

 

Witnesses from the EPA, the Renewable Fuels Association, the oil industry and others testified and brought different perspectives to the table. Proponents of the RFS and ethanol said that record volumes of biofuels have been incorporated into the nation’s fuel supply without causing any serious technological problems or price increases and that it has provided environmental benefits.  

 

Critics said that the original energy security rationale for the RFS and ethanol has been greatly undercut by the domestic oil production growth and that the nation’s fuel supply will soon contain more than 10 percent ethanol and will pose major problems for the fueling infrastructure. This included concerns from several members of congress including Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX) that many vehicles and small engines such as motorcycles were not designed to handle these higher blends.

 

Ultimately, the hearing yielded little. The fact is, according to the 2007 law, biofuels like higher blends of ethanol must be incorporated into the market. Though there have been some successful delay tactics, (bills to stall the standard, parties filing lawsuits against the EPA, etc.) getting the law overturned is an uphill and unlikely battle. Perhaps instead it’s time to look at a world where the RFS and ethanol standards remain and the advocacy instead shifts to possible “sweeteners.” This could be a manufacturer-endorsed study done on the effects of higher ethanol blends on motorcycle engines; perhaps a consumer education campaign to make certain motorcycle riders are aware of the possible risks associated with higher ethanol blended fuel; or even a guarantee, that E10 (or less) fuel always remains as an option at the pump. Regardless of your personal feelings on ethanol, I encourage our members to think outside the box as we move forward in addressing the issue of ethanol.

 

Sound Science at the EPA? The Administrator Questioned on Street-to-Race Conversions

 

It was a busy day for the EPA on Wednesday! In addition to an appearance at the Energy & Commerce Committee hearing on ethanol (see above), another official from the EPA, Administrator Gina McCarthy testified at the House Science Committee regarding the Agency and the use (or lack thereof) of "sound science.”

 

McCarthy was in the hot seat and was questioned thoroughly by both Republicans and Democrats. Though the hearing mostly centered around the EPA’s recent justifications for regulations like the Clean Power Plan and new ozone standard, (both of which the EPA had overestimated benefits and underestimated cost) it also served as an opportunity to question a proposed rule the EPA issued last year which would make it illegal for motor vehicles and motorcycles to be converted to be used in racing competitions.

 

In July of last year, the EPA issued a proposed rule to establish regulations for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Buried within the 625-page rulemaking was one sentence that would have the effect of banning any conversion of street automobiles or motorcycles into racing vehicles. The EPA failed to alert the public to this aspect of the rulemaking which would be a major policy change and severely affect the racing industry. When word got out, a working group materialized. Led by the Specialty Equipment Marketing Association, the working group filed comments arguing that the EPA’s actions were arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion. Congress pushed back at EPA and in April, the EPA quietly dropped the language. However, confusion remained as the Agency continued to assert that even though it would not pursue making motorcycle and automobile conversion illegal, it still had the power to do so.

 

Unsurprisingly, this did not sit well with the working group. Shortly after, the Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act or “RPM Act” was introduced which would ensure that competition cars and motorcycles are beyond the reach of future EPA regulations. The RPM Act currently has over 100 co-sponsors in the House and that number is growing. The Senate also has a bill with a fair number of co-sponsors. The MRF was recently invited to be a part of the RPM Working Group and, in conjunction with our members and partners, will push Congress to pass this bill ensuring that the EPA doesn’t continue its overreach.

 

Megan’s Take: A Week of Political Theatre Limits Congressional Business

 

This week in Washington brought with it enough theatrics and drama to last me for a while.

 

Georgia Democratic Congressman John Lewis deployed a strategy from his days as a civil rights activist and staged a dramatic sit-in Wednesday on the House floor with his fellow Democrats to force a vote on gun control. He and roughly 80 fellow House Democrats vowed "to occupy the floor of the House until there is action." This sort of fodder is highly unusual for the U.S. Congress. The “sit in” lasted throughout the night and, at the time of this writing, is continuing. At 2:30a.m. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) finally responded to the protest and forced votes on several unrelated bills. Upon completion of the voting Speaker Ryan adjourned the house 2 days earlier than scheduled starting the Independence Day recess early. This was an attempt to make the Democrats efforts to force a vote on gun control futile. 

 

Wednesday’s demonstration follows an event last week where Senator Murphy (D-CT) spoke for 15 hours delaying business in the Senate in another effort to force a vote on gun control.

 

During my 10 years in Washington, I have never witnessed events such as the ones that occurred Wednesday night and into Thursday morning while most of American slept.  The video clips being posted on Facebook, Periscope and other social media outlets are jaw dropping and even more so when at one point, it looks like members of the Republican party like Louie Gohmert from Texas is close to coming to blows with members of the Democratic party. This kind of chaos on the floor is unheard of in the Capitol which is usually the definition of order and parliamentary procedure.

 

It’s not clear at this juncture what will happen, the House gavels back in on July 5. I imagine that in addition to walking in 4th of July parades, shaking hands and kissing babies, there will be serious discussions among members of both parties as to how they can move forward and return to regular order to the House.

 

Interesting times!

 

Your Friend in Washington,

 

Megan Ekstrom

Vice-President of Government Affairs & Public Relations

The Motorcycle Riders Foundation 

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