E15 would seriously harm boats and marine engine

Bob Dineen’s opinion editorial (“New study green lights EPA to OK 15 percent ethanol blend for older cars,” 9/21) is irresponsible as it only addresses a new study declaring the safety of higher level ethanol blends for automobiles and fails to mention the negative effects it will have on millions of boats, lawnmowers, generators and older vehicles. Mr. Dineen contends that the Environmental Protection Agency’s pending decision to allow E15 for some model year cars is good for consumers when, in fact, it could be seriously detrimental.  

While allowing E15 would certainly be beneficial for the struggling ethanol industry, it would have serious negative effects on the nation’s 17 million boats and marine engines currently in operation throughout the U.S. Even though E15 is likely only to be approved for certain new cars, the introduction of this new, untested ethanol blend will guarantee confusion among millions of consumers. 

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Widespread reports from boaters and marine repair professionals across the country on E10 already indicate that higher blends of ethanol can cause performance problems, fuel tank corrosion and damage to valves, gaskets and fuel lines, not to mention marine engine failure. A broken-down car on the side of the road is one thing; a boat stranded at sea is an entirely different matter. We also know that higher-level ethanol blends make boat engines run at a higher temperature, increasing emissions of smog-forming pollutants. There are serious consumer safety, warranty, product liability and air quality concerns that EPA and policymakers have not fully thought through, in their haste, to support the ethanol industry.  

Ninety-six percent of the nation’s 17 million boats are 26 feet and shorter, meaning that these boat owners fill up their boat tanks at regular automotive gas stations as they tow their boats to their local waterway. Consumers should be able to trust that the gasoline they buy at the filling station is safe. And no label is going to clarify consumer confusion and prevent owners of boats, lawn and garden equipment or older vehicles from accidentally putting an incompatible fuel in their equipment. 

Because of these concerns, more than 30,000 boaters wrote letters to the EPA last year encouraging the agency to deny the ethanol industry’s waiver petition to allow E15 into the marketplace until studies can be completed to prove that E15 is safe for all gas-powered engines. Even so, it looks like EPA will make a hasty and unfortunate political decision that might jeopardize consumer safety and damage air quality. Boaters are flocking to www.FollowTheScience.org to ask the president to take a science-first approach to ethanol.  

 The ethanol industry wants to pump first and ask questions later. The National Marine Manufacturers Association, the trade group for our nation’s recreational boat manufactures, along with a broad coalition of partners representing food, environmental groups, outdoor power equipment and others, have called for a science-first approach to this issue. The bottom line is that EPA must test all gas-powered engines before making a decision that impacts the wellbeing and financial health of millions of Americans.

Chicago, Ill.