Ethanol Facts vs. Fiction
Jan 30th, 2019 by sworrall
Modified Jan 30th, 2019 at 2:30 PM
Is ethanol really the boogey-man that so many people are saying it is? If you check out the recent deluge of press material from the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), one could draw the conclusion that any fuel with ethanol in it will quickly destroy all that is good in the world of outboard engines.
The recent push from the NMMA to slow down the Trump administration from allowing more E85 fuel in the US fuel supply is a classic example of this boogey-man approach. In a recent article, NMMA officials claimed they didn’t want more E85 available, especially during the traditional boating months (a.k.a., summer), because people would fill their tanks with E85. Of course, this is just summarizing the article and not using exact quotes, but you get the jist.
The takeaway here is that all of us who use marine engines that run on gas are dopes and can’t read the signs that say “not approved for marine engines, outboards, etc”. We may not all be Harvard graduates, but most can read, at least a little.
Anyway, enough about how foolish we boaters are. How about a few facts from the other side? A novel idea, but one that needs to be explored for sure. So, Bradley Schad, the Director of Market Development from the Missouri Corn Growers Association, answered a few direct queries about ethanol. Read on and decide for yourself… you may just be enlightened.
OFM – Does ethanol damage outboard engines?
Mr. Schad – Simply put, gasoline blended with 10 percent ethanol (E10) is safe for all outboard marine engines. All major outboard motor manufacturers currently approve and warranty the use of E10 in their motors. We always say, if you’re unsure, it’s always good policy to check your owner’s manual.
E10 was tested and proven to be “substantially similar” in regulations. That means there is no measurable difference between E10 and regular gasoline. The real issue lies with the new gasoline formulation of today. Aromatics added to the fuel (benzene, xylene, and toluene) are more corrosive to plastic components, which is why the oil industry would rather shift the blame on ethanol.
Why do you think there is such a huge pushback from the marine industry regarding ethanol in the US fuel supply?
Mr. Schad – That is a great question. The oil industry has spent millions of dollars misleading customers to deflect from the real issue. Today’s gasoline is comprised of more than 150 chemicals and compounds. Additives include metal deactivators, corrosion inhibitors, oxygenates, and antioxidants – many of which are toxic and harmful to the environment. Yet, with all these toxins and chemicals in the mix, ethanol (a safe, clean-burning oxygenate) is often singled out as a culprit. Today, over 90 percent of the gasoline sold to millions of Americans for their boats, cars and small engines contains up to 10 percent of this renewable fuel – with no issues. So what’s the real culprit?
Other companies are also profiting from consumer confusion. Some of the misleading practices include fuel stabilizers that claim to “cure ethanol fuel problems.” Well, E10 is still 90 percent gasoline. These stabilizers are supposed to work on the 90 percent that is degrading, producing gum and varnish, and losing octane.
How does the use of ethanol support recreational fishing and conservation throughout the United States?
Mr. Schad – Ethanol is a clean, renewable resource and octane booster that reduces our reliance on foreign oil and oil in general. It also reduces the toxic exhaust emissions that go into our lakes and rivers. Think about it. Our dependence on oil has caused toxic spills, killing habitat for fish and wildlife for decades. Have you ever heard of an ethanol spill shutting down a beach? And if there ever was an ethanol spill, it is biodegradable and would disperse quickly without any harm to the ecosystem.
What about E10 in small engines?
Mr. Schad- As mentioned, today’s gasoline is comprised of more than 150 chemicals and compounds. Additives include metal deactivators, corrosion inhibitors, oxygenates, and antioxidants – many of which are toxic and harmful to the environment. Yet, with all these toxins and chemicals in the mix, ethanol (a safe, clean-burning oxygenate) is often singled out as a culprit. The truth is e10 fuel is safe for use in small engines. Issues caused are usually a result of gasoline no longer being stabilized from the refinery and fuel just plain breaking down with exposure to the environment and age. In many cases lawn mowers and similar small engines may have fuel in the tank for months at a time. Those issues can occur no matter the grade of fuel selected at the pump for you small engines, ATVs, or snowmobiles.