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Is ethanol harmful to boat motors?

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The nation’s largest recreational boat owners group, BoatUS, is sounding the alarm along with the National Marine Manufacturers Association about the possibly harmful effects of raising the ethanol content in gasoline from 10 percent to 15 percent.

A powerful ethanl lobby has petitioned the federal Environmental Protection Agency to permit the change. Boaters says ethanol is bad for gasoline outboards and other marine engines and BoatU.S hopes that recreational boat owners speak out on the issue before the petition comment period ends May 21.

BoatUS says that the trade group Growth Energy, which represents the ethanol producers, investors and corn growers, wants to increase the use of ethanol in the nation’s fuels. If successful, the petition would grant the ethanol industry a waiver to allow a 15% ethanol concentration in gasoline.

However, BoatUS is concerned because boat engines were not designed for use with gasoline containing more than 10% ethanol, and using any greater concentration above that level may void engine warranties, damage motors and fuel systems and potentially lead to significant safety issues.

No one among the country’s boating advocacy groups has anything against supporting renewable energy. In fact, they support it, but caution is urged.

The BoatUS vice president of government affairs, Margaret Podlich, said, “Our recent experience with a nationwide roll-out of E10, or a 10 percent ethanol concentration, leads us to believe there has to be a lot more science and unbiased testing before we can universally accept E15.”

Podlich is referring to the widely known problems with ethanol’s ability to attract water into gasoline, degrade fiberglass gas tank walls to the point of failure, and its solvent-like quality which has led to catastrophic boat engine failures and major repair or replacement costs. “A few years ago, no one thought there would be any problems with E10, and there were. Boaters got stuck with the tab for repairs. Independent authorities have not tested higher levels of ethanol in marine engine systems, and its use may void a warranty.

“If this petition for a waiver is approved for E15 now - without testing it first for use with marine engines - boaters might be on the hook for these repair costs. All we are saying is let’s first take a look at all the facts before we increase the use of ethanol by 50%,” she added.

BoatUS urges boaters to go to BoatUS.com/gov before the federally-mandated comment period ends on May 21. The boating group wants us to send the EPA an email asking them to deny the waiver for E15 fuel until more testing is done.

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