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A NMMA petition is circulating on the Hill to raise awareness of the challenges ethanol fuels present for marine engines. Experts are unanimous, higher proportions of ethanol (higher than E10) use in marine engines will lead to engine failure and potential safety risks. More than 10% ethanol (E10) could cause engine and fuel system damage.
The EPA announced in November 2016 that they plan to raise ethanol levels in the upcoming year, requiring that 15 billion gallons of conventional biofuel be mixed into the fuel supply, up from the 14.8 billion gallons initially called for. The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) is lobbying the new Congress and President to ensure raised awareness of the critical issue to Marine engines using E15 fuels.
The President's choice of OK attorney general Scott Pruit to head up the EPA is encouraging since he vigorously fought the Renewal Fuel Standard (RFS) however the NMMA doesn't feel they can rely on government agencies to rule in their favor. Legislative changes and Congress need to work together to facilitate the changes we need and ensure public safety through our new policy makers.
The NMMA has been working with Trump's transition team in an effort to brief them on the issues affecting our industry and plan to continue those discussions, educating and engaging our new policy makers.
While increasing use of renewable fuels to address climate change and create a more self-sustaining energy dynamic is a worthy goal, the NMMA advocates administering a law that keeps the numbers low with law reform that addresses all concerns while accomplishing the expanded use of renewable fuels within acceptable guidelines.
While the issue is under debate we strongly recommend you are cognizant when you're at the pump. Since we don't know when or how E15 will be an option at your pump, we do know that, according to Mercury Marine: "Fuel containing higher proportions of ethanol is not compatible with many fuel systems and engine components and, if mistakenly used, will cause irreversible damage to these components that will lead to engine failure and potential safety risks."
If you're like the 90% of recreational boat owners who fill their boat's gas tank when they fill up their tow vehicle, extra care must be taken to ensure you're only filling your boat with E10 fuel.
Ethanol blended fuels are generally accepted and commonly available across the U.S. After the non-ethanol fuel to E10 transition is completed the blended fuel may be considered superior to non-ethanol fuels as it keeps low levels of water moving through the fuel system and keeps the system "dry". It should be noted however that if the fuel won't be used in few weeks then extra care must be taken using high-quality fuel additives to protect your engine, prevent sediment, control moisture and help prevent phase separation and fuel system corrosion. Consult your manufacturer for specific precautionary measures.
Some consumers are also concerned that E15 becoming a new standard will prohibit the production of E0 fuel alternatives. Refiners producing E15 will see their margin for producing E0 disappear as they strive to meet requirments to sell more ethanol or use more ethanol blending stock. For those selling an E0 option, this would be a big deal. They are providing fuel to consumers with concerns over effects they have seen on older fuel components from E10. While engines haven't blown up (yet) breakdown of fuel lines, gaskets, and fuel rings are challenges they are looking to circumvent.
While legislation abounds to tackle the situation from multiple fronts, the National Wildlife Federation has joined the coalition because of algea blooms primarily caused by runoff from our acres of farmland fertilizers and manures bleeding nitrogen into our waterways. Ironically, more ethanol produced from corn fields equates to more nitrate polution killing our waterways. Fish are disappearing and dead zones are appearing due to algea growth.
The EPA has awarded grants for study of the issue, contending that nutrient pollution is one of America's most challenging environmental problems and is caused by excess nitrogen and phosphorus in waterways.
The NMMA has endorsed isobutanol as an alternative however there are drawbacks in cost and distribution. Moreover, while continued focus is on a solution that is proven unsafe for boats, motorcycles and lawnmowers, developing an infrastructure that would support isobutanol isn't a priority. Corn ethanol producers have little incentive to consider altering their current path as they can easily continue to produce and gaining profits.
Mandated ethanol levels will undoubtably continue to impact the marine industry while futher research is done to discover viable alternatives. In the meantime legislation is raising awareness of the challenges so that hopefully no definitive action will be taken that could potentially cause permanent damage to the industry.
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