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Industry Insights

New Jersey not beholden to Big Ethanol

By ,
Tony Russo, president, Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey
Tony Russo, president, Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey

The members of the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey are adding our voice to the growing outcry of consumer, taxpayer, environmental and worker-advocacy organizations that are against the Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act (S.517).

This legislation is expected to come to a vote before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in the near future — at which time Sen. Cory Booker and other committee members will have a chance to stop special interests’ attacks on the free market and consumers, by voting against S.517.

CIANJ has been advocating for free enterprise and a strong business environment in New Jersey for 90 years. With government’s role limited to the facilitation of an open and free market, entrepreneurs and businesses can prosper. Our principles and our dedication to New Jersey businesses compel us to speak out against the free-market distortion that S.517 would cause. With workers unions, motorcyclists and boaters, environmentalists and taxpayers also expressing major concerns, it begs the question: who would really benefit from S.517? 

The Consumer and Fuel Retailer Choice Act would exempt a higher ethanol-blend fuel, or E15, from Clean Air Act rules, and remove current restrictions on the sale of E15 during the summer months. Framed by its supporters as a bill that would reduce excessive government regulation and expand consumer options, S.517 has been championed by powerful Midwestern corn growers and ethanol producers — but certainly not consumers, as the legislation’s authors would have you believe.

In reality, this bill is a poorly concealed ploy to expand the volume of ethanol in the market. It’s an opportunity for the ethanol industry to unfairly improve their prospects and fabricate demand for E15 to justify another one of their taxpayer-funded cash cow policies: the Renewable Fuel Standard. The RFS — a government mandate that has required increasing volumes of ethanol to be blended into the nation’s fuel supply each year — has failed for 12 years to create meaningful consumer demand for ethanol. However, ethanol interests refuse to cease their meddling in the free market, and will push S.517 ahead whatever the cost to the rest of America.  

S.517 would make it easier for E15 — which can cause serious and costly engine damage when misused — to enter the market. Ethanol’s corrosive nature not only results in warranty-voiding destruction in the form of engine overheating, rubber swelling and metal deterioration, but requires gas stations to retrofit their facilities with all-new pump infrastructure. Yet there is so little demand for E15, that a government payout program was instituted to provide retailers funding for these necessary blender-pump installations.

It’s a hard pill to swallow, and Big Ethanol has made little effort to sugarcoat it.

Sen. Booker wasn’t elected to represent Midwestern producers, and New Jersey has no reason to bend to these special interests. He must be willing to protect New Jersey’s economic environment, and resist the hypocrisy of ethanol special interests — which claim to promote consumer choice and free-market policies with a bill that compromises both. Sen. Booker must consider his constituents and vote no on S.517.

Tony Russo, president, Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey.

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