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Bait Fuel

By Louie Stout

The next time you go to the gas pump, pay attention the ethanol rating before you stick that nozzle into your boat’s gas tank.

In fact, you should note the type of gas you’re putting in your lawn mower, chain saw, snowmobile, motorcycle or any other small gas-fired equipment you have around the house.

While the warning may be premature around here, the day is coming when gas pumps will be offering fuels that contain 15 percent ethanol (E15). It’s already offered at some pumps in 24 states.

That might burn fine in your car or truck, but it’s bad news for smaller engines and outboards.

You have to figure if today’s 10 percent ethanol (E-10) is causing problems for small engine users, imagine what 50 percent more ethanol will do.

If you think I’m over-reacting, ask your marine dealer. Ethanol issues are among the leading causes of problems for outboards.

The reason is ethanol is refined grain alcohol that is a highly efficient solvent. When used in older tanks or older engines, it can break down accumulated sediments and washes them into the fuel system. It’s also been known to decompose rubber gaskets and damage rings and pistons.

Another problem with ethanol is it absorbs moisture from the air. Rarely used gas tanks will collect water and cause phase separation, which can leave an engine sputtering or even inoperable. So, that outboard you only use a few times a year could be at risk.

We have the federal government, specifically the Environmental Protection Agency, to thank for this. The Renewable Fuel Standard set by the feds require increasing amounts of biofuels to be blended into the fuel supply. The EPA has permitted E15 into the marketplace, and while it’s prohibited for use in smaller engines, the chances of you misfueling increases if you don’t pay attention.

Outboard and small engine makers are trying to create more compatibility with E15 in newer models, but that old outboard or lawnmower that continues to do the job might be at risk.

Fortunately, some fueling stations are beginning to offer ethanol-free fuels. And while they cost a little more, they help avoid potential problems down the road.

If you can’t find ethanol free fuel, make certain the pump you choose is E-10 and nothing more. Also, make a point to buy gas from stations that get a lot of traffic and never buy gas when you see a tanker delivering a new load of fuel. The addition of fuel from tankers stirs up sediments in the underground tanks that can eventually get into your fuel tank.

Some sensible elected officials are trying to get this silliness fixed. Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va) introduced the Renewable Fuel Standard Reform Act of 2015 that calls for removal of federal mandates for higher blends of ethanol and allows for investment of more compatible biofuels (HR 703 and HR 704). Corn lobbyists are fighting it with all they have, thus the bills sit idle in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Marine manufacturers and sportsmen groups urge you to contact your congressmen and senators to make them aware of these concerns and get the bills moving.