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On boating season's kickoff, BoatUS reminds boaters to avoid a misfuel mishap

by BoatUS 23 May 2023 23:10 UTC
The lowest priced option here, “Regular 88,” is a gasoline and ethanol (15%) blend prohibited for use in recreational boats © BoatUS

Today's gas station pumps no longer provide clear and transparent information to help consumers make the right fuel choice. Dispensing pumps have become a marketer's dream, chock full of attention-grabbing video screens blasting amplified sound that visually plaster a captive audience with a mishmash of eye-catching advertisements from two-for-one coffee to $1 hot dogs.

With all that distraction and summer boating season kicking off this Memorial Day weekend, Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) wants to remind boaters that it may take a little more effort to ensure the right fuel goes into the tank. The key to that is knowing that recreational boats are not approved for gasoline blends containing more than 10% ethanol (E10) - and a little orange warning sticker may be the best indicator on the pump to help make the right fuel choice.

"Fuel is a significant part of a boater's budget, so finding savings is important," said BoatUS manager of Government Affairs David Kennedy. "However, fuel retailers market E15 (15% ethanol) fuel, such as 'regular 88' or 'unleaded 88' as a lower cost alternative to E10."

BoatUS notes that recreational vessels are never compatible with E15. 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. Recreational vessel engines may only use gasoline containing no more than 10% ethanol (E10). Any pump dispensing E15 fuel must have an approved orange warning label.

Results from a 2020 Outdoor Power Equipment Institute poll showed 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. On top of that, the availability of ethanol fuels during the summer increased last year when a Clean Air Act waiver authorized the sale of gasoline containing 15% ethanol from June 1 to September 15. BoatUS has also fought efforts to weaken pump labeling rules.

"More than ever, boat owners need to check the pump for the orange warning label denoting a higher-blend ethanol fuel," added Kennedy. "We also need to continue to get the word out to educate boaters about the right fuel for their boats. Using the wrong fuel could end up costing you more than perhaps the meager savings gained when filling up."

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