Ethanol would no longer be a required part of the fuel Florida motorists buy if a bill passed by the Florida House goes on to become law. But such a law might not mean much if it’s overruled by federal regulation.
“This is the bill that removes and repeals Florida’s burdensome ethanol mandate,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R- Fort Walton Beach).
Today, most automotive gas pumps in Florida carries a sticker informing motorists that the gasoline they’re buying contains up to ten percent ethanol. That stems from a 2008 law requiring ethanol blended fuel for motor vehicles. Aviation and marine gas were exempt from the requirement and last year, auto fuel sellers could opt out under certain conditions as well. Several of Gaetz’s colleagues objected to his repeal bill.
“We had many businesses that came before many committees and testified that by us voting for this repeal, it would send the wrong message to the rest of the state as it relates to creating new businesses, new innovation as it relates to alternative fuel,” said Rep. Alan Williams (D-Tallahassee). He sat on one of the committees that had approved the repeal earlier.
And some fellow Republicans said pretty much the same thing.
“The businesses, the industries that have moved to the state of Florida are going to not continue business here. That is what is going to happen,” said Rep. Debbie Mayfield (R-Vero Beach).
But Katie Edwards, Democrat from Broward County, had a different view.
“Working with small family farmers in South Florida who have tried everything from deutropha to algae to sweet corn to try to create a bio-fuel, bio-diesel and ethanol market here in this state and, members, I will tell you those efforts have not been successful,” she said.
But some lawmakers say the proposal won’t have any effect on current law. And some, like Duval County Republican Lake Ray said Gaetz’ proposal could make doing businesses in Florida harder for the oil and gas industry.
“As I studied this I realized the fact that these guidelines are being impressed upon us by the federal government and federal regulations. By doing this it doesn’t change anything. In fact it might make it more onerous for many members of our petroleum industry and therefore I would be voting against this today,” Ray said.
After extended debate on the matter, it was time for bill sponsor Matt Gaetz to have the last word.
“I mean, this is an easy question; a fundamental question that I think goes to the core of our principles. Do we believe in free markets, or not?” He said.
The house voted to drain ethanol from Florida’s fuel supply by a two-to-one margin. If the measure gets to the Governor’s desk and is signed into law, it could set up a clash with federal regulations.