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Whoa, boaters! Slow down on the recent E15 news

by Scott Croft 19 Apr 16:48 UTC

There's been a lot of pain at the pump lately with gas prices. The Biden administration's April 12 move to give a waiver from the Clean Air Act to allow the sale of gasoline containing 15% ethanol (E15) during the summer months is intended to lower costs and stretch the nation's fuel supply. However, Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) says the unintended consequence of the waiver could inadvertently put a harmful fuel prohibited for use in recreational vessels into your boat's gas tank.

BoatUS notes recreational vessels are never compatible with E15 (15% ethanol). It is not permitted by federal law to use E15 fuel in boats (as well as motorcycles, off-road vehicles and power equipment), voids the engine warranty, and it has been proven to cause damage to marine engines. It also causes engines to run hotter and contains less energy than E10. Recreational vessel engines may only use gasoline containing no more than 10% ethanol (E10).

"While we understand the need to save money, we are concerned that fuel retailers may market E15 (15% ethanol) fuel, such as 'regular 88' or 'regular unleaded' as a lower cost alternative to E10," said BoatUS Manager of Government Affairs David Kennedy. "And therein lies the problem — the majority of recreational boats are refueled at roadside gas stations and, with almost no safeguards in place, there is a real chance that boat owners, looking for a bargain will misfuel their boats with E15 fuel."

E15 dispensing pumps have a poor warning regime, sometimes just a single orange label on the pump, which is ineffective at informing consumers. A 2020 Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) poll shows that only about one in five consumers know that "regular 88" — or 88 octane fuel — has more ethanol (15%) in it than 87 octane (10% ethanol) fuel.

Kennedy further explains: "To refuel, boaters head to their local gas station with the boat in tow for a fill-up. Newer tow vehicles may be compatible with E15. "Regular 88" is selected and dispensed into tow vehicle's gas tank. Then the boater pulls the trailer rig forward to refuel the boat. Without a clear understanding, the "Regular 88" fuel dispensing nozzle is put in the boat's fuel tank fill, and you soon end up with a tank full of prohibited E15 fuel."

Without the waiver, E15 fuels are prohibited for sale during the summer months (June 1 - September 15) as a way to address the higher ethanol fuel's contribution to ground level ozone (smog) on hot days.

The administration's April 12 "fact sheet" also notes USDA is considering additional action to facilitate the use of E15 year-round and other actions to significantly increase the sale and use of higher blends of ethanol fuels.

It is also notes EPA is considering modifications to pump labeling. "That is something BoatUS fully supports," added Kennedy.

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