Maine Sidesteps Battle With Feds Over Ethanol Mandates

NEW YORK -- The battle between the federal government and the states has never quite simmered down since the passage of the 10th Amendment giving states all "powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution."

Maine is a recent example, in its skirmish with Washington over ethanol and premium fuel.

In 2007, the federal government passed The Energy Independence and Security Act, which mandated, among other things, that a specific amount of biofuels -- e.g., ethanol -- must be added to the nation's fuel supply -- from 9 billion gallons in 2008 to 36 billion by 2022.

This year, however, the state legislature of Maine attempted a mandate of its own in a bill that would have prohibited the addition of ethanol to any premium fuel in the state. This was to assuage the concerns some have over the effect of ethanol on small engines such as boats, snowmobiles and lawn mowers.

There are various, complex ways the state and the federal governments could have reconciled their positions if the bill had become law, but a Constitutional "crisis" was averted when the bill died in committee -- thanks in part to Jamie Py, president of the Maine Energy Marketers Association (MEMA), and one of those who assisted in its internment.

"One of the few refineries east of the Mississippi that carries ethanol-free premium fuel is in Montreal, which means that if the bill had passed it would have added 30 to 40 cents in transportation costs to each gallon of premium fuel sold in Maine," said Py. "That would have created havoc in the market, not to mention the added strain on recession-battered pocketbooks. We are very pleased to have won this battle."

That leaves Py with some leftover energy to engage the legislature in its proposal, now on the table, to ban flavored cigars.

Clearly aimed at small cigars, since premium Cuban-esque cheroots are exempt, Py predicted the measure would eliminate 80 percent of the cigars sold in convenience stores. This will drive smokers to nearby states and the Internet, said Py, depriving his member stores of much needed business, and the state of tax revenues.

"It's a bad idea for everyone," he said, vowing to fight the proposal.
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