Obscure issue aims for traction in presidential contest

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If you thought estoppel was hard to get people interested in, try the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Generally, it’s a 10-year-old mandate by Congress aimed at getting more ethanol, an alternative fuel made from corn, into gasoline to reduce emissions for cleaner air.

Smarter Fuel Future, a group that opposes the standard, had a table at this weekend’s Sunshine Summit in Orlando, trying to gain attention to the issue.

The group says it’s an “unfortunate case of good intentions gone bad” that “strains environmental resources and is a raw deal for consumers.”

It even had a character informally named “Corn Guy” wearing an ear-of-corn costume and holding a sign that said, “Food Not Fuel.”

Most gasoline sold in the United States is now 10 percent ethanol, or ethyl alcohol — the same type of alcohol in booze.

America’s corn farmers, obviously, support the mandate. But critics complain it raises the cost of gas and say ethanol can damage engines, particularly in boats and motorcycles. 

According to the group’s handout, nine Republican presidential candidates oppose the standard and five support it — though statements from the candidates weren’t always clear about their actual position.

That may be because it’s on a lower tier of concerns from, for example, jobs, immigration and health care; no candidate had brought up the fuel standard in remarks by mid-Friday afternoon.

But Wayne Allard, vice president of the American Motorcyclist Association, said it’s a concern the next president will likely have to address.

“This is a key issue to all (fuel) consumers on the road,” said Allard, a Republican and former U.S. senator for Colorado. “We want our candidates to be aware of it.”

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