BoatUS Survey: Boaters don’t want E15 fuel

The study found 83 percent of recreational boaters would use ethanol-free gasoline.

Editor’s Note: This story was published in our Oct. 5-18 issue, a few days before Pres. Donald J. Trump issued a memo to the EPA calling for year-round sales of E15. Full coverage of the White House’s directive will be featured in our Oct. 19-Nov.1 issue.

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia — Boaters don’t want ethanol fuel in their marine engines, according to the results of a BoatUS survey released on Sept. 19. The report specifically found 83 percent of recreational boaters would fill up with E0 – or ethanol-free – fuel if it was available at the pump.

The survey was conducted during this year’s peak boating season and asked recreational boaters about their interests in fueling up with ethanol blends. Misfueling and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) were the two issues identified as chief concerns among boaters.

“The results identify potential misfueling issues and allow recreational boaters to be heard as RFS policy is being debated on Capitol Hill,” Scott Croft, BoatUS’ spokesperson, said in a released statement.

Croft echoed the recurring message of fuel blends with more than 10 percent ethanol being incompatible with marine engines.

“Only fuels containing up to 10 percent ethanol (E10) are permitted for use in recreational boats, and anything greater has been shown to damage marine engines and will void warranties,” Croft said.

BoatUS said 49 percent of survey respondents filled with ethanol-free fuel this past summer.

Boaters prefer to use ethanol-free gasoline but the fuel isn’t always readily available – and sometimes it’s just difficult to find stations or fuel docks offering E0.

“If they had their choice of fuel, more than four in five (83 percent) would choose E0 (ethanol-free) fuel – if it was available,” the BoatUS survey found. “Forty-one percent reported the availability of E0 has stayed about the same over the last three years. However, by a margin of more than two to one (31 percent to 14 percent), some respondents said the availability of E0 was becoming more difficult to locate over the last three years.”

The survey also found:

  • 53 percent of boaters refuel at a roadside gas station
  • 50 percent fuel up at on-water fuel docks
  • 32 percent use gas cans or portable gas tanks at roadside gas stations
  • 49 percent reporting being unaware of a federal prohibition against E15 fuel in marine engines
  • 84 percent could not correctly identify the color of a misfueling warning label on pumps at E15-serving stations
  • 36 percent were advised to undergo marine engine repairs due to ethanol.

Congress began mandating ethanol-blended fuels in the nation’s gasoline supply since 2005, when federal legislators passed the RFS. BoatUS said the RFS was enacted under the assumption of our use of gasoline would grow. The growth of gasoline, however, did not match the forecast, ultimately resulting in a higher portion of ethanol found in each gallon of fuel, according to BoatUS.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in 2010, opened the door to allow increased levels of E15 fuel in the marketplace. The marketplace waiver was granted, according to BoatUS, “to keep up with the RFS mandate and avoid hitting a ‘blend wall’ in which the volume of ethanol production would exceed consumption and infrastructure constraints.”

Photo: BoatUS

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