June 22, 2018 – RIDING FREE FROM DC

Your Weekly Biker Bulletin from Inside the Beltway

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.

NEWS FROM THE HILL – See? Congress Does Work on Fridays! (Sorta)

The House Subcommittee on Environment held a rare Friday hearing today.

Typically come Friday mornings, our lawmakers are already back in their districts or in the process of getting there.

Legislative business rarely happens on a Friday – much less a hearing, but in this case, it was warranted as the ethanol debate is RAGING in Washington, DC.

The hearing titled, “Advanced Biofuels Under the Renewable Fuel Standard: Current Status and Future Prospects” offered the opportunity for Republicans, Democrats, environmentalists, corn farmers, oil and gas industry reps, and truckers to get into a very public pissing match over ethanol.

Fun times!

But like I said the hearing was necessary; there has been lots going on in this space from trade restrictions and duties to the imposition of new administrative measures, tax credits, compliance concerns and more.

In short, it’s a ****ing mess. The committee has already held 3 hearings on the issue since January (and yes, your MRF has been at all 3) and discussions on everything from sunsetting the issue entirely, to transitioning to higher octane fuels has been discussed.

And yet, I can’t say any headway has been made. Today proved no different. And if you are reading this and saying to yourself, why should I care again???

Let me break it down for you in very plain speak:
A dozen years ago, with gas prices on the rise and a desire to stop buying oil from countries that hate our f**king guts, Congress passed a bill that required certain levels of ethanol to be injected into the nation’s fuel supply.

Which is AWESOME if you are a corn farmer, because more ethanol = more $$$$ for you. And personally, I have no issue with ethanol – it’s a cheaper alternative at the pump and it makes us less dependent on foreign oil.

And if given the opportunity, I would use in my car which is a 2012 Toyota Highlander…. which can take ethanol-gasoline like a CHAMP.

BUT, where I wouldn’t use ethanol-laced gasoline is in my motorcycle.

Why? BECAUSE IT IS ILLEGAL.

Yes. Illegal. And, for most motorcycle manufacturers it voids your warranty. Why? Because it can severely damage the engine.

So, here we are.

Ethanol = bad for motorcycles, boats, snowmobiles, etc. and yet, more and more is getting introduced into our nation’s fuel supply because of this law that was passed a dozen years ago.

And now we are trying to make everybody happy, and judging from the tone of today’s hearing, it. just. isn’t. going. to. happen.

So, who wins and who loses?

That my friends is why you have me.

I’m trying to get a little relief for you all – relief through a stronger misfuelling mitigation program, better consumer education surrounding E15, and the guarantee that we will never be at a gas station faced with the choice of walking home, or voiding your bike’s warranty. Much more on this in next week’s bulletin.

I’ve got some things cooking….

EXECUTIVE & REGULATORY UPDATES – Threats from Oil & Gas, Plus FHWA Coming to a City Near You….

Okay so its Friday afternoon and they haven’t done it yet, but the EPA was aiming to roll out its proposed rule setting new ethanol volumes for 2019. But after EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was criticized this last week over waivers he granted to small oil refineries allowing them to not meet their ethanol requirements, it seems the agency may be rethinking its path. Reportedly, the upcoming rule may reallocate the waiver that small refiners got to larger refiners for next year.

Basically, big oil and gas companies would have to blend extra volumes to compensate for the small refiners’ hardship waiver exemptions. So that’s going to make Shell and Exxon SUPER HAPPY. sarcasm.

Here’s Chet Thompson, President of the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers with his take: “To say that we would be livid were this deal to move forward would be a gross understatement” Yikes. Game On.

The Federal Highway Administration recently announced a National Dialogue on Highway Automation and is in the process of holding a series of meetings across the country. They want to “engage a diverse group of stakeholders” (hoping that means bikers?!) to facilitate information sharing, discuss the implications of automation on the roadway infrastructure and other areas of interest to the highway community.

The purpose of all of this is to help inform FHWA research, policies, programs, and support the development of a national transportation community around automation. Next up? A stop in Philly where your MRF will be represented (hat tip to Andy Kelly).

But if you’re not in the Philly area, you have a chance to participate if you live near Seattle, Chicago, Phoenix, or Wisconsin. Want more info or care to register to attend? Link below… https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/automationdialogue/index.htm

Industry News – Rough Week for Harley

Boring but important: the European Union announced a 25 percent tariff this week on products ranging from motorcycles, to steel, bourbon and jeans in retaliation for President Trump’s tariffs on imports of European steel and aluminum. (Basically, Europe is going to tax the hell out of all the good shit this country makes).

What could this mean for you?

Well, if Harley is paying more in taxes to get their motorcycles into Europe, that money has to come from somewhere… and I doubt their CEO is volunteering to take a pay cut.

Oddly enough, India, who is also threatening tariffs and taxes, left motorcycles off their list.

Guess India really loves their Harley’s?!

NEWS FROM THE STATES – Missouri’s Freedom of Road Riders Doing It Right

Setting a good example for all motorcycle rights orgs that want to get an early supporter in Washington, Missouri’s Freedom of Road Riders (FORR) are helping to host a rally for Senate Candidate, Lt Colonel Tony Monetti.

There is going to be a motorcycle escort to the event and some of FORR’s members have volunteered to participate as well as help to set up/take down/generally help out. This is how its done folks…if Lt. Colonel Tony Monetti becomes Senator Monetti, guess who he is going to remember that helped him get there? Nicely done, Missouri.

MRF NEWS & ANNOUNCEMENTS – Announcement Time

If you attended Meeting of the Minds last year, you may have heard me mention that there was a group of folks representing different facets of motorcycling (some of which are our friends, some of which are our enemies) that were trying to figure out how to have some sort of arrangement going forward where, at the very least we all talked regularly and had an open dialogue, and at best, worked together on some common interests.

I have an exciting update that this is officially underway….

Last year the National Association of State Motorcycle Safety Administrators (SMSA) and your MRF teamed up to form the National Motorcycle Safety Alliance. The Alliance held its first meeting September 27, 2017, in Burlington, Vermont. Participants of the alliance include the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF), Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). And of course, yours truly.

It’s a powerhouse of people that directly touch the rider community in one way or another. In addition to regular communication, we are going to initially focus on 2 issue areas – Left turn crashes involving a motorcycle and rider impairment. More to come on this over the next few months, but I think that it’s so critical that the MRF is not only seen as a participant but also viewed as a leader in this newly formed group.

It helps increase our political clout, expand our reach and puts us on a level playing field with organizations with MUCH bigger budgets and staff that we could only dream of.

Anyway, I hope you’ll share in my enthusiasm as this group moves forward. And as always, I promise to keep you in the loop and up to date with my eyes and ears WIDE open in case the conversation turns sour. But for now, all is quiet on the helmet front.

Enjoy your weekend and most importantly-

RIDE FREE-

Megan Ekstrom
Vice-President of Government Affairs & Public Relations
The Motorcycle Riders Foundation