High ethanol can cause problems for boaters

(Farm and Dairy file photo)

The topic of ethanol use and boat engines is a hot one right now since the dealers I know report a large percent of repairs are ethanol-caused. Here’s what’s going on from the marine boater perspective.

The issue

The Environmental Protection Agency is asking for comments on a proposal to increase the amount of ethanol that must be blended into the nation’s gasoline supply for 2017. If adopted, these proposed levels will require the use of a record amount of ethanol, forcing higher-level ethanol fuel blends (including E15 or 15 percent ethanol) into gas pumps and at more gas stations.

Most marine engines are built to only work with up to 10 percent ethanol, and it is illegal to use gas containing more than 10 percent ethanol in any marine engine.

Speak up

The Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) is urging all recreational boaters to send a message today urging the EPA to lower the ethanol mandates to ensure an adequate supply of fuel that will work with recreational boat engine and fuel systems.
The deadline for public comments is July 11.


The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is the 2005 law that requires the blending of biofuels such as corn ethanol into our gasoline. When written, it was assumed that America’s use of gasoline would continue to rise. However, U.S. gasoline usage has actually dropped steadily since 2005 and now the law forces more ethanol into fewer gallons of gasoline.

To keep up with this mandate, in 2010 the EPA permitted E15 (fuel containing up to 15% ethanol) into the marketplace for some engines.

E15 has been proven to damage boat engines and so it is prohibited in marine engines. It is also illegal to use E15 in snowmobiles, motorcycles, small engines like lawn mowers and leaf blowers, as well as any car or light-truck made before 2001.

Already here

E15 and higher ethanol fuel blends can now be found in 23 states, often at the same pumps as E10 gasoline. Those states include: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.

A sticker on the pump mixed in with all the other labels may be the only warning for E15 gasoline. This creates the potential for mis-fueling and puts boaters at risk of using fuel that will damage their engines.

About 40 percent of the BoatUS members polled report filling up the family boat at a gas station and another 35 percent use portable gas cans.

Additional RFS information is at BoatUS.com/gov/RFS.asp.

(Information in this column was provided by the Boat Owners Association of The United States. Readers may contact this writer at mtontimonia@att.net.)

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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.



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