EPA Opens Door to Ethanol Increase in Gas

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved the blending of higher concentrations of ethanol in gasoline for newer road vehicles, allowing mixtures with up to 15% at the pump. The EPA said it was forced to do so to meet a congressional mandate that requires refiners to blend 36 billion gallons of biofuels, mostly corn-based ethanol, into auto fuel by 2022.

What does this mean for the nation’s 13 million registered boat owners? Apparently, marinas and roadside gas stations will still be allowed to sell E10 fuel, but boaters who fill up on the road will have to check the posted percentage amounts listed on the pump.

Meanwhile, engine manufacturers are scrambling to test their products to see how they will perform with the higher ethanol concentrations. Higher ethanol-gas blends absorb more water in the fuel tank, can corrode older fuel lines and can create deposits in the fuel, potentially damaging marine engines and affecting performance.

Naturally, marine-industry groups are up in arms over the decision. “We are extremely disappointed that EPA is allowing this fuel to enter the market without the appropriate scientific data or consumer and environmental safeguards,” said National Marine Manufacturer president Thom Dammrich, who was quoted in a recent Sounding Trade Only article. “This decision not only adversely impacts marine manufacturers, but creates a significant risk of misfueling for the nation’s boaters, who will be left ‘holding the bag’ for performance issues and expensive repairs.”

Gina McCarthy, EPA’s assistant administrator for air and radiation, stressed that owners of marine engines and other smaller engines would not be forced to buy the E15 gas. “EPA is not requiring the use of E15. This decision is not a mandate,” she said. “This decision is about allowing the use of E15.”

Marine industry groups are concerned over confusion among boaters, especially trailerboaters, who may not be able to find E10 gas in their area or who may inadvertantly fill up with the wrong blend.

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