Marine industry fights increased ethanol in fuel

WASHINGTON — The marine industry is fighting to block efforts by fuel manufacturers to increase ethanol in the fuel supply from 10 percent to 15 percent, an issue examined in a recent article by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The industry and a variety of small-engine manufacturers oppose the move to 15 percent ethanol, or E15, or more ethanol in any quantity. This has set up a conflict with the ethanol industry, its farm allies and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the paper reported.

The Environmental Protection Agency probably won't decide until late this year whether to grant the Clean Air Act waiver necessary to blend more ethanol, according to the article. However, ethanol industry advocates are pushing for incremental increases to E12 or E13 sooner.

Over the years, cars and trucks have adopted tanks, hoses, seals and other components that help prevent damage caused by increased levels of alcohol. Recent boat motors contain hoses that can handle fuel containing up to 10 percent ethanol, according the article. Beyond that, however, it is unclear how much more ethanol the engines can take.

Boats also face obstacles that cars do not, the paper reported. People tend to keep boats longer, with 30-year-old vessels common in many parts of the country. Plus, fuel remains in boat tanks longer, often resulting in a buildup of ethanol, which can draw water and contaminate fuel, the paper reported.

"We could do all the testing and change our equipment in new boats," NMMA’s John McKnight told the paper. "But the problem is the millions of boats out there now. There could be fuel leaks. Boats could blow up."

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Last week, the National Marine Manufacturers Association submitted requests to the EPA and Department of Energy for testing, the paper reported, pointing to tests last fall on several types of small engines that showed ethanol raised internal temperatures, sometimes considerably.

To read the full St. Louis Post-Dispatch article, click here.

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