|Higher Ethanol Leaves Boaters With No Choice|
Just as the public may be forced to buy health insurance, boaters may be forced to purchase fuel containing 15% ethanol and 85% gasoline (E15), found harmful to marine and car engines that are older than 2001. Fuel generated from corn that contains a level of ethanol higher than E10 is considered unsafe for marine engines. As the demand for renewable energy leads to a push for more corn in fuels that would replace the present, low-ethanol fuels, many boat engines would be handicapped and unable to use these fuels. Will the government turn its back on boating by limiting the availability of low-ethanol fuels in gas stations?
Boating in America fl ourished during the last century, leading 18 million citizens to purchase boats. Many people from all economic strata now own boats, unique, aff ordable instruments for fun and the enjoyment of freedom. With the exception of Pres. George H. W. Bush, who imposed an unheard-of excise tax on large boats in 1989, no sector of any government, federal or local, has ever picked on boating by imposing any harsh regulations, property taxes or roadblocks that would yank the joy out of it.
But with the present administration, things have begun to change. Th e ethanol lobby is gett ing preferential treatment from a government that used to be friendly and accommodating to boating. In response to the federal government’s recent actions concerning the increased amounts of ethanol that will be in gasoline available for purchase, a federal lawsuit was fi led challenging the administration’s position to not allow the availability of low-percentage ethanol fuels.
Th e National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), representing recreational boating, brought this lawsuit to the U.S. Court of Appeals. It is pursuing this challenge as part of a newly-formed coalition called the Engine Products Group, which includes the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automobile Manufacturers, to protest and overrule a lack of access to fuels with low ethanol content. From misfi ring to running at high temperatures, boat engines appear to suff er from severe damage from E15. A negative ruling on this appeal could seal the fate of millions of existing boat engines that would become destined for ruin.
Th e list of how high-grade ethanol (E15 and above) can harm marine engines is well-known. For marine and other small, gasoline-powered engines that are designed, calibrated, and certifi ed to run on no more than E10, higher concentrations of ethanol in fuel pose serious problems, including (1) performance issues, such as drivability; (2) increased water absorption and phase separation of gasoline and water in the gas tank; (3) fuel tank corrosion, leading to oil/fuel leaks; (4) increased emissions; (5) damage to valves, push rods, rubber fuel lines and gaskets. All of these concerns raise signifi cant issues, particularly for boaters who operate in harsh marine environments, oft en miles from shore.
On Jan. 21, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a waiver that allows E10 to E15 to be used in model year 2001 and newer light-duty motor vehicles, according to its web site, www.epa.gov/otaq/regs/fuels/additive/e15/#wn.
A properly-worded EPA warning label is being readied to be affi xed on fuel-dispensing nozzles, that will warn that marine and off -road engines, including marine engines and car models older than 2001, should not use this fuel. Where one would fi nd gas stations that off er lower ethanol fuels, including E10, remains unknown. Small fi shing or trailerable boats would be at the highest risk, as boaters with these craft are more likely to refuel with E15 at local fi lling stations and may not realize that this could harm their engines. In contrast, individuals who refuel larger boats at marina fuel docks will presumably fi nd marine-grade fuel there.
Ethanol producers will have an increased demand for corn, and the resulting benefi ts to corn growers at the expense of boaters ignore the crippling damage that E15 could infl ict on boating.
While the recreational boating industry contributes $30 billion annually to the American economy, ethanol is believed to be only half that. Th e government is missing the boat.