Ethanol increase raises concern for boating lobbies

Published 3:35 pm Friday, July 17, 2009

The idea of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allowing the introduction of a fuel that has never been independently tested for use with marine engines has Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatU.S.) and the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) urging every boater in America to speak out on the issue before the July 20 federal comment period closes.

In March, Growth Energy, a pro-ethanol lobbying organization, and 54 ethanol producers petitioned the EPA to allow an increase in the amount of ethanol in gasoline from 10 percent (E10) to 15 percent (E15). After an initial comment period that drew nearly 30,000 comments from concerned boaters, the marine industry, marina operators and many other boating groups, the agency extended the comment deadline to July 20.

BoatU.S. and the NMMA are concerned because boat engines are not designed, calibrated or certified for use with gasoline containing more than 10 percent ethanol.

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Recreational boat warranty documents and manufacturers owner’s manuals currently advise boaters not to use gasoline containing more than 10 percent ethanol, and therefore, the use of E15 in marine engines could void engine warranties and damage motors and fuel systems.

“This is not about growing renewable energy,” says BoatU.S. Vice President of Government Affairs Margaret Podlich. “This is really about a group of investors attempting to profit at the expense of 13 million recreational boat owners. We had significant problems with the nationwide roll-out of E10 a few years ago, and without further independent testing of E15 with marine engines we are very likely to see similar issues.”

Podlich is referring to the widely known problems with ethanol’s ability to attract water into gasoline or “phase separate” which has led to boat engine failures and major repair or replacement costs for boaters. It also degrades fiberglass boat gas tank walls.

If the ethanol lobby’s petition is approved it would also affect other gasoline powered products.

“There are an estimated 500 million gasoline powered engines in the U.S., from boats and autos to chainsaws, lawn mowers and ATVs, so this issue not only severely impacts the recreational boating industry but many others as well,” said NMMA Legislative Director Mathew Dunn. “We have a very simple position on this matter. Science—not politics—should ultimately determine EPA’s decision on whether to allow the sale of any increased ethanol blend that’s more than 10 percent. At present, it is clear there is insufficient scientific and technical data to justify granting the increase, and EPA should therefore deny it outright.”

Boaters can go to or before the federally mandated comment period ends on Monday, July 20, to learn more and send EPA an e-mail asking them to deny the petition for a waiver for the use of E15 fuel until more testing is done on marine engines and fuel systems.