Tag Archives: ethanol

BoatUS Report

BoatuslogoMedia Alert:
If You Don’t Want More Corn In Your Gas Tank,
BoatUS Says Boaters Need to Speak Up Now

Always on the alert for issues that affect the boating community, BoatUS has had its collective ear to the ground on this particular news for quite some time now. Here at the Boat & Yacht Report, we also feel it is important to get the information out as well. You decide. Thanks for listening. -Capt. Ken


THE ISSUE: The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is the 2005 federal law that requires the blending of biofuels such as corn-ethanol into our gasoline. When it was written, it assumed that America’s use of gasoline would continue to rise and mandated escalating amounts of biofuels to be blended with our fuel. Since 2005, however, gasoline usage has actually declined steadily, which today forces more ethanol into less gasoline.

To keep up with this RFS mandate, in 2010 the EPA permitted E15 (fuel containing up to 15% ethanol) into the marketplace. Even though E15 is prohibited from being used in marine engines, snowmobiles, motorcycles, small engines like lawnmowers and leaf blowers, as well as any vehicle made before 2001, this fuel can now be found at over 100 stations in 16 states at the very same pumps as E10 and ethanol-free gasoline.

Over 60% of Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) half million members as well as millions of recreational boaters fill their boat’s fuel tanks at roadside gas stations where the higher blend ethanol fuels are often the cheapest fuel at the pump. This creates a huge potential for misfueling and puts boaters at risk.

ACTION NEEDED NOW: For years, BoatUS has been battling in Washington to make sure recreational boat owners can buy gasoline that works with their recreational boat engines. Senators Diane Feinstein and Pat Toomey have now introduced S. 577, the “Corn Ethanol Mandate Elimination Act of 2015” in the US Senate.

This bill, which has both Democrat and Republican support, will effectively remove the government mandate for higher blends of corn-based ethanol fuels (more than 10%) and allow for investment in other more compatible biofuels. BoatUS believes it is a critical step to solving the ethanol issue and urges America’s boat owners to contact their Senator now to become a co-sponsor and supporter of S. 577. Boaters can easily do this at: For more on the Renewable Fuel Standard go to

WHO: Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) is the nation’s leading advocate for recreational boaters providing its over half million members with government representation, fighting against unfair federal taxes, fees and regulations that single out boat owners. BoatUS is also non-partisan working on both sides of the aisle as well as with state agencies to promote boating laws that make sense.

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Posted by on March 24, 2015 in BoatUS Report


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Green Dock

Green Dock

To Use or Not to Use: Is it really a question?

Boaters are squaring off on the controversy of having E15 added to the fuel used in their engines.

By Ken Kreisler

According the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) summary of The Clean Air Act of 1970 “ [it] is the comprehensive federal law that regulates air emissions from stationary and mobile sources. Among other things, this law authorizes EPA to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) to protect public health and public welfare and to regulate emissions of hazardous air pollutants.” Sounds like a plan to me. I mean, who doesn’t want clean air? But as widely attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux in about 1150, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Fast forward to the 2007 signing of the Energy Independence and Security Act. In essence this tome included, among many other objectives, one that most boaters can relate to: Reducing petroleum use and increasing the utilization of alternative fuels with a stipulation that, according to Forbes contributor Larry Bell in a 9/23/12 Op-Ed article, “…a certain amount of ‘renewable’ fuel must be introduced into the market each year, an amount that will rise to 36 billion gallons in 2022.” In October of 2010, after an almost year- long urging from Growth Energy, a coalition of Ethanol supporters, along with over 50 Ethanol manufacturers, that same EPA decided to allow a bump up in the percentage of Ethanol from 10%, known as E10, to E15 in a selected group of gasoline engines.

corn-1847037_1280Here’s where things get contentious. E15 is a 15% solution of Ethanol; the alcohol fuel made from the sugars found in grains, with the most popular being extracted from corn and, in harmony with marine industry thinking, not a very good thing for internal combustion engines.

Firstly, it is hygroscopic by nature and attracts moisture and will therefore encourage internal engine rusting and other downstream problems. It also tends to dissolve and release destructive engine gunk which plug fuel filers, clog injectors, and play havoc with carburetors. Then there’s possible gasket and rubber hose failure and an issue with the decomposition of fiberglass fuel tanks manufactured prior to 1991. And while there are conditions with being able to use E15 with 2001 model year engines and newer in cars, light trucks, certain SUVs, and FlexFuel vehicles, it seems as if marine warranties are voided should the brew be introduced into the boat’s fuel system.

Case in point, Mercury Marine’s take on using E15: “E10 is considered acceptable but fuels with higher levels can void the warranty.”  Mercury’s David Hilbert, a Thermodynamic Development Engineer, in his November 2, 2011, testimony before the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, United States House of Representatives, reported the following paraphrased findings of a 300 hour test performed during 2010 and 2011 on three Mercury outboard products using E15:

Ethanol damage done to engine parts.

Ethanol damage done to engine parts.

“We were able to complete the entire test running E15 in a 9.9 HP engine…results indicated poor running quality, including misfires at the end of the test, an increase in exhaust emissions, increased carbon deposits on the underside of the pistons and the ends of the rods indicating higher engine temperatures. Additionally, deterioration of the fuel pump gasket was evident, likely due to material compatibility issues with the fuel blend.  This deterioration of the gasket could lead to fuel pump failure, disabling the engine.

“The 300 HP four-stroke supercharged engine did not complete the test, encountering a valve failure after 285 hours. One valve broke apart and two others developed cracks. Analysis showed the cause of these fractures was deteriorated mechanical strength due to high metal temperature.  The 200 HP two-stroke engine also failed a rod bearing at 256 hours of testing, resulting in catastrophic destruction of the engine. There was so much damage to the engine that we could not determine the exact cause of failure.  It is important to note that two-stroke engines of this architecture mix the fuel and the oil and use that mixture to distribute the oil to the critical interfaces such as the bearings and cylinder walls.  Ethanol may have an effect on the dispersion or lubricity of the oil as it is mixed with the fuel.  More testing of such engines is necessary to understand the ramifications of an E15 blend fuel on this type of lubrication system, as it is not well understood at this time.”

To move the information-gathering process forward so as to be able to understand what is at stake here, I went back to the proverbial horses’ mouth—although some would say it was another anatomical region of that most noble breed of equine—and perused more of the aforementioned EPA site. Among the listed factoids and talking points I found, clearly listed under the What Vehicles May Not Use E15 heading, this:  “…all off-road vehicles, such as boats and snowmobiles.” But as with those most annoying infomercial pitchmen, there’s more.  And this one is a real eye-opener: The E15 Waiver.

In essence, the Clean Air Act gives the EPA the authority to disregard the exclusions on E15 use as long as, “…the prohibited fuel or fuel additive will continue to meet their emission standards over their ‘full useful life.’” Enter some data, such as that from the Biotechnology for Biofuels site, a Euro-based research group, where, in its conclusion of testing in the UK and Sweden—remember, we are not in this alone—pointed out that the large amounts of electricity used during the conversion process may actually increase greenhouse gasses so much so as to diminish any gain in reported exhaust emissions. Then there is the whole land use discussion and how it impacts not only our own economy but that of established and emerging nations as well.

Cap warningWhile E15 remains on the EPA’s Do Not Use List, it can find its way into the boating fuel supply. “A majority of boats are pulled on trailers. You get to the pump and fill up your tow vehicle and then fill up your boat. That’s the way people have been doing it for years and will continue to do it,” said Jim Currie, NMMA’s Legislative Director.

Most recently, a D.C. Court of Appeals ruling denied a suit brought forth by the Engine Products Group (EPG), of which our own National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) is a part of, in its opposition to the higher concentrations of Ethanol in gasoline.  “The ultimate goal is to get the law changed.  Our plan for the 113th Congress is to re-open the Renewable Fuel Standard, the law that requires ever-increasing amounts of renewable fuel—like Ethanol—in the marketplace. We’d like to have the Congress pass legislation that would basically freeze the standard for Ethanol where it is, at about 10% by volume,” Currie added.

And finally this from NMMA president Thom Dammrich: “E15 is a disaster for boaters and the environment. We need to have everyone learn as much as they can and to get in touch with their members of Congress and let them know we need to change the requirement that is driving this process to get more Ethanol into gasoline.”

If you have any thoughts on this subject, please feel free to contact me by using the Leave A Comment feature at the bottom of the page. Future discussions will feature a lengthy interview with the NMMA’s Thom Dammrich.

GREEN DOCK is dedicated to supplying a forum to discuss important issues, products, and trends that can better help all of us protect the environment. Your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and desire to make a change is most welcome.

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Posted by on December 18, 2012 in Green Dock


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BoatUS Report

A Shotgun Marriage? Ethanol and Old Outboard Boat Engines

Damage to a boat engine carburetor as a result of ethanol at 10% (E10)

Ever since E10 gasoline (gas containing 10% ethanol) became widely available several years ago, the nation’s largest recreational boat owners group, BoatUS, has received hundreds of calls and emails complaining about boat engine problems. The majority of complaints concern older outboard motors, those made before about 1990. BoatUS’ Seaworthy magazine asked Mercury Marine’s Ed Alyanak and Frank Kelley, who between them have over 60 years of experience, to find out what’s made these decades-old outboards more susceptible to ethanol’s well-known problems and what owners can do.

1. Vulnerable hoses: In the mid 1980’s new standards (SAE J1527) for fuel hoses were developed for “gasohol,” which was known to deteriorate rubber and plastics. Since then, problems with hoses have largely gone away, but that doesn’t mean they are maintenance free. Tech Tip: Any hose older than 10 years should be replaced. Here’s another way to test rubber fuel hose condition: wipe a clean rag along the hose. If you smell gas on the rag, replace the hose immediately.

2. Carburetors: O-rings and rubber carburetor parts on older engines tend to get hard and brittle when exposed to ethanol and then break off in bits and pieces causing clogs, misfires and shutdowns. Pre-1990 carburetors were also made from alloys that didn’t stand up to ethanol, leading to corrosion that can cause tiny fuel orifices to clog, resulting in hard starts and poor running. Old carbs are also “dumb” in that they were designed to run on only one type of fuel. Ethanol, however, has more oxygen and affects the air/fuel ratio, causing engines to run leaner and hotter. Tech Tip: The best solution with old outboards is to run straight gas – if you can find it. Some mechanics may also have the ability to “recalibrate” a carburetor to tolerate E10 (note: gas with ethanol greater than 10% should never be used with any boat engine).

3. Plastic fuel filter bowl: Some older engines may have plastic fuel filter bowls. Tech Tip: If you still have one, replace immediately with a metal bowl.

4. Fuel fill gasket: Keeping water out of the fuel tank is even more important with ethanol as it can eventually lead to the formation of two separate solutions in the gas tank (water and fuel), also known as phase separation. The process is more common on older boats which are more likely to have accumulated water at the bottom of the tank. Once phase separation happens – the tipping point when water in the gas is either harmlessly ingested or transformed into a corrosive mixture no engine will run on – there’s no going back. No fuel additive can restore E10 back to its normal state. Tech Tip: Age and exposure to ethanol can rot fill gaskets or O-rings. Replace them every few years.

5. “Gunk” in the tank: It is still possible that some old outboards and boat fuel systems have yet to sip a drop of E10. But once your boat drinks its first tankful, ethanol will “scour” or dissolve the gunk that’s been coating the tank walls (and hoses) for years. Tech tip: You may want to think about hiring a professional to have the tank drained completely of any gas and water at the bottom before adding your first load of E10. If not, keep a supply of filters on hand – they will clog quickly. Always use a fuel stabilizer and avoid using octane boosters that contain ethanol.

For more information on ethanol and boat engines, go to

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Posted by on March 28, 2012 in BoatUS Report


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BoatUS Report

BoatUS Asks: If Not Ethanol, Why Not Butanol?

With its ability to attract moisture and clog fuel filters, it’s no wonder America’s boaters have not been thrilled with ethanol in gasoline, which today is most commonly found as a 10% blend and known as E10 at the gas pump. America’s desire for renewable fuels is growing, but recent Department of Energy tests on boat engines showed that increasing the amount of ethanol to 15% doesn’t work for boats. While higher ethanol content has been approved by the EPA for 2001 and newer cars and light trucks, E15 is not legal to use in boats and other gas-powered equipment. Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) suggests that butanol, an alcohol with a characteristic banana-like odor typically made from corn and beet byproducts, may be an answer.

Could butanol replace ethanol?

Unlike ethanol, butanol is less corrosive, doesn’t attract moisture which can cause harmful “phase separation” of the fuel, and can be mixed in ahead of time and shipped through existing pipelines. It has a higher energy value (110,000 Btu per gallon versus ethanol’s 84,000 Btu), and is safer because its flammability is similar to diesel fuel. So why aren’t America’s boaters, motorists and gas-powered tool and toy owners using butanol?

“Part of the answer is how the stuff is – or was – made,” wrote BoatUS Seaworthy Magazine Editor and Damage Avoidance Expert Bob Adriance. He says, “Back in the 1980’s when the government was looking at biofuels, the cost to produce butanol was much higher than ethanol. Congress also gave ethanol a head start 30 years ago with a subsidy to produce it from corn. However, the subsidy is now expired and new technologies have made the costs to produce both fuels similar, although butanol is ultimately far less expensive to produce in terms of the amount of energy delivered per gallon.”

“With its new cost competitiveness and energy advantages, butanol could be a biofuel that boaters embrace,” said Adriance. “However, we need to find out more about any potential long-term effects, and would need to overcome the not-too-insignificant reality of ethanol’s financial and political momentum in the market today.”

About BoatUS: BoatUS – Boat Owners Association of The United States – is the nation’s leading advocate for recreational boaters providing over half a million members with government representation, programs and money-saving services. For membership information visit or call 800-395-2628

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Posted by on February 6, 2012 in Uncategorized


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