Letters/Online Comments

E15: A New Hazard for Boaters

On Sept. 20, the National Marine Manufacturers Association joined others in the Engine Products Group — including producers of motorcycles, off-road vehicles, lawn mowers and gasoline-powered tools whose small engines cannot run on the new 15-percent ethanol-blend fuel called E15 — in a suit challenging new EPA-approved “warning labels” for E15 fuel pumps at filling stations.

The group filed suit against the EPA in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., with a goal of preventing potential misfueling of boats and other small-engine products at gas stations nationwide that is expected to result from inadequate fuel labeling — and from a phase-out of existing 10-percent ethanol fuel blends.

Last June, the EPA ruled that a very small warning label on gas pumps stating that E15 fuel could damage engines of cars built before 2001 and other gasoline engine-powered vessels, vehicles and equipment was sufficient to allow sale of the new product nationwide. In its action, the EPA also denied a request to mandate that gasoline blends with no more than 10 percent ethanol continue to be made available.

The NMMA — and all boaters with gasoline-powered vessels — now worry that many fuel suppliers will simply choose to sell only E15, despite its potential to cause serious damage to non-automotive products and older cars.

Many have called the EPA’s approval of E15 fuel — over numerous objections from consumers, the automotive industry, the marine industry and small-engine builders — as an act of “railroading through” approval of a potentially damaging gasoline blend that seemingly nobody wants but the people who make it.

Make no mistake about it; there are plenty of people calling for the sale of E15 fuel. They are high-powered lobbyists from Growth Energy, representing more than 50 producers of ethanol products. And they are farmers who sell corn to make ethanol, and get a high government subsidy for doing so.

So, what the EPA seems to be giving the public is a fuel that nobody wants except the people who produce it. Automakers don’t like it. Boat builders don’t like it. Motorcycle manufacturers don’t like it. Lawn mower and toolmakers don’t like it. And off-road vehicle manufacturers don’t like it.

Various studies have warned that an increase in ethanol production is increasing the price of food worldwide, because of its affect on the price of corn. And they warn of potential food shortages may eventually result from turning farmers’ attention from growing food crops to producing fuel.

Many environmentalists have attacked corn-based ethanol fuels for those reasons — and for the fact that ethanol takes too much energy to produce and is relatively inefficient when compared to conventional fuels.

So, we wonder, what is the EPA thinking in its push for E15? And how does this action qualify as environmental protection?

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