Boaters less than happy about possible increase in ethanol in gasoline
One's perspective on use of ethanol in gasoline may vary depending on perspective.
How you think and feel about ethanol in your gasoline probably varies depending on your perspective of the fuel additive.
If you are a grain farmer, you likely have a different view than that of a boat owner, especially the perspective of a boat owner with an older engine.
The media relations folks at Yamaha recently put out information from their perspective about the current use of ethanol in gas and the desire of the feds to add even more per gallon.
The Yamaha release said, “Unless you haven’t put fuel in your car in the past ten years, you’re probably familiar with the term E10. It refers to the 10 percent ethanol that is blended into the gasoline you buy at the pump. If you’ve owned an outboard-powered boat during that same time period, you are far more familiar with E10 than your over-the-road counterparts.
“The introduction of ethanol into the U.S. gasoline supply was the result of an EPA regulation called the Renewable Fuel Standard, and it caused a lot of costly headaches for boaters at the 10 percent level.
“Now, the EPA is doubling down under intense pressure from the agri-industry’s ethanol lobby in Washington, increasing the mandated amount of ethanol in gasoline to 15 percent, a move dreaded by boaters and marine engine manufacturers alike.
“Ethanol is derived from plant sources, mostly corn, and the government mandate has been a major boon to farmers and refiners. Basically, it is a fermented and refined grain alcohol that is denatured and then blended with gasoline. It initially found its way into the nation’s fuel supply as a replacement for a chemical additive called MTBE, which was used to increase octane and reduce emissions.
However, the use of ethanol in fuel came with a host of problems for marine engines and fuel systems as I learned first hand with my old boat and 60-hp Mariner engine.
“Not long after the introduction of E10 gasoline, boats using it began experiencing problems. Almost immediately mysterious substances began clogging fuel filters that were later identified as a byproduct of mixing fuel still in the tank containing MTBE with ethanol-blended gasoline, but that was only a harbinger of things to come.
In my case, it took nearly two years to determine why my boat wouldn’t run properly, and why my carburetor would be dirty with little specks of material just shortly after it had been cleaned.
Also in some boats, any sludge deposits in older fuel tanks began dissolving and were pumped into the fuel system, damaging components and making a mess of filters.
As in my case, ethanol-blended fuel can also be responsible for the decomposition of rubber gaskets and fuel lines that heretofore had been approved for use in gasoline fuel systems. Finally, again cleaning the fuel system and replacing the fuel line with a new ethanol resistant line appears to have solved the problem. I also now use fuel (which I can still buy) which contains no ethanol. It is more expensive, but worth it.
Yamaha has available a brochure titled “Maintenance Matters – A Simple Guide for the Longevity of Your Outboard”, which makes a number of recommendations for avoiding the potentially damaging effects of burning ethanol fuel in your outboard engine. It contains good advice for dealing with the ethanol problem.
According to Yamaha, the problems created by the initial introduction of ethanol into the fuel supply were widespread and costly to both individuals and the marine industry. The increase to 15 percent will have far-reaching consequences.
Yamaha has gone on record opposing an increase to 15 percent ethanol. It says it could build motors to deal with the increase, but it also will increase motor cost to the consumer, however there also will be a significant problem with 10 million existing motors whether they are made by Yamaha or other manufacturers.
“There are more than 10 million outboards currently in service that would be destroyed by the damaging effects of E15. As an industry, we cannot allow this to happen to consumers.
“We strongly urge consumers and members of the marine industry to make their voices heard and stop the EPA from going forward with a plan to increase the amount of ethanol in the fuel supply,” said a Yamaha spokesperson.