Mercury official warns against increasing ethanol level in gasoline

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Mercury Marine’s Tim Reid testified before Congress on Thursday about the dangers of ethanol in gasoline to the recreational boating industry.

Reid, Mercury’s director of engine design and development, warned members of the House Science Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Oversight about the harmful effects of fuel with more than 10 percent blended ethanol on small marine engines.

Reid cited two studies — one by Volvo Penta and the other by Mercury, both in association with the Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, according to a statement from the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

The studies tested the effects of 15 percent blended ethanol, or E15, on performance, emissions and durability. In all cases E15 had catastrophic effects, leading to increased emissions, deterioration and in most cases complete engine failure. Reid warned that the use of E15 is not only dangerous for engines, but also creates a safety risk for the boaters who rely on them.

“E15 creates a higher probability of phase separation with water in the tank fuel, resulting in a greater chance of disabling the boat engines and stranding a boater out on the open water,” Reid told the subcommittee.

Modern marine engines are only certified to run on fuel with 10 percent blended ethanol (E10) or less. Engines made before 1990 are not certified to use any fuel blended with ethanol.

The Renewable Fuel Standard sets the levels of ethanol to be blended into the overall fuel supply at flat numbers and didn’t account for the drop in fuel consumption that has occurred. That means that to comply with the RFS, ethanol levels would have to exceed what some call the “blend wall,” or the levels that most engines could handle.

Reid reminded Congress of the incompatibility between E15 and the still numerous older engines in the fleet, warning of the dangers misfueling poses to those boaters and their engines. Reid also rebutted assertions that fuel with higher ethanol blends decreased emissions, saying that the use of E15 caused engines to run hotter, increasing the output of nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons.

“The absurdity of it all is that by using higher ethanol blends to achieve the mandates of the RFS, we are actually increasing emissions and lowering efficiency,” Reid said.

On Monday the comment period on the RFS mandate will come to a close. The NMMA is urging members to take action through Boating United and tell Congress why increasing the amount of blended ethanol into the market is bad for the recreational boating industry.


7 comments on “Mercury official warns against increasing ethanol level in gasoline

  1. Tommy D'Ascoli

    Everything I have read about ethanol indicates it is not beneficial to the environment, the reducing emissions or the performance of the engines using it. From my experience servicing outboard and steer drive powered boats it has caused an increase in repair and maintenance costs as well as more breakdowns, leaving boats stranded, sometimes in dangerous situations. Florida thunderstorms can pose very serious safety issues and to be left without power in open water can be deadly.

    We have seen an increase in fuel related engine problems since ethanol has been blended into our gasoline. Engines manufactured after 1990’should be able to tolerate 10% ethanol but when phase separating occurs water and ethanol in gasoline settles to the bottom of the gas tank and a much higher concentration of ethanol enters the fuel system causing a variety of issues. Any benefit realized from ethanol blended fuels cannot make up for the added cost of the damage it causes. Less performance, higher operating costs, no significant reduction in emissions do not support adding more ethanol to our gasoline supply.

    My biggest fear is that the government will increase the ethanol content and make ethanol free gasoline available as a recreational gas, then labeling it recreational gas and increasing the price. If I this happens I believe it will have a significant negative impact on the marine industry. My business has seen a significant loss of boaters due to the economy and fishing regulations. The majority of my business had been multi engine offshore fishing boats. Most have converted to single engine inshore boats. Some have sold their boats, charter for the reduced amount of fishing they do. Take the cost to the next level with a special class of fuel and boating will truly become a hobby for the wealthy. Maybe that is what you he goal is, imagine how much less fuel will be consumed.

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