As boaters head into the Labor Day weekend and fill up their boat’s gas tank for one last hurrah of the season, a vast majority say they want ethanol-free gas, but only about half surveyed by the Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) say it is available to them at marinas and gas stations. This means that boaters are filling up with a gasoline mixture of 10 percent ethanol, or E10 fuel. While the federal government says this fuel is safe for boats – and is even looking to mandate higher use of corn-based ethanol fuel offered at gas retailers across the country – boaters are wary.
The recent informal survey sent to members of BoatUS reveal recreational boaters’ frustrations with using E10 fuel. 91% said they want ethanol-free gas for their boat and more than half of the respondents have had to replace or repair their boat engine or fuel system parts due to suspected ethanol damage. The average price tag for those experiencing damage: $1,000.
“Our members said that they fill up their boat(s) in a combination of ways, with about half of them using a fuel dock, about 40% filling up at a gas station, and 35% using portable gas cans,” said BoatUS Government Affairs Senior Program Manager David Kennedy. "We need to make sure that no matter how they get their gas, boaters have a fuel that works in their marine engine. And if we don’t fix the federal mandate known as the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) that aims to increase the volume of corn ethanol into the nation’s gas supply, there will be higher blends of ethanol (i.e. E15) in gas pumps increasing the chances of misfueling with the possibility of more extensive engine damage continuing to rise.”
Signed into law in 2005, the Renewable Fuel Standard requires an increasing amount of biofuels such as corn ethanol to be blended into the gasoline supply. When it was written, the RFS assumed that America’s use of gasoline would continue to grow.
Since 2005, however, gasoline usage has actually declined steadily which today forces more ethanol into each gallon of gas. To keep up with the RFS mandate, in 2010 the EPA permitted E15 (fuel containing up to 15% ethanol) into the marketplace. Even though E15 is prohibited for use in marine engines, snowmobiles, motorcycles, lawnmowers, and any vehicle made before 2001, it can now be found in 24 states.
BoatUS encourages boaters and others with small engine equipment to ask their Member of Congress to amend the RFS to ensure future gasoline supply in the US works for all engines. To take action, go to http://goo.gl/nkWD6w.