BoatUS Blasts Warning Labels Phaseout

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BoatUS has wasted no time in attacking the ethanol industry’s latest push for a new federal rule to weaken or eliminate critical warning labels designed to prevent boaters and consumers from misfueling with prohibited higher-ethanol fuels at gas stations.

In co-signing a letter to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Elizabeth Dermott, BoatUS urged the federal regulator to stand up for consumers with its Misfueling Mitigation Program that ensures transparency in the sale of fuel, and to reject the “E15 Fuel Dispenser Labeling and Compatibility With Underground Storage Tanks,” proposal.

It should be no surprise to anyone in boating that the ethanol makers are aggressively lobbying for such a new federal rule to weaken or flat-out eliminate important warning labels designed to prevent boaters from misfueling with prohibited higher-ethanol fuels.

BoatUS manager of government affairs David Kennedy outlines their game this way: “Ethanol manufacturers are pushing to blend more ethanol into the nation’s fuel supply. To accomplish that, consumers are not being fully informed at roadside pumps about the type of fuel going into their boats’ gas tanks. Their new marketing schemes to brand these prohibited 15 percent ethanol fuels as ‘regular 88,’ promoting them as a low-cost alternative and, at the same time, attempting to drive federal rulemaking efforts to reduce and weaken warning labels at the pump is an anti-consumer one-two-three punch that should not be tolerated.”

The truth is the ethanol producers’ push for new rulemaking provides no new data on a theoretical basis to support the proposals to either decrease the stringency of existing E15 warning labels or eliminate them altogether. Indeed, a 2020 Outdoor Power Equipment Institute poll shows that only about one in five consumers know that the “regular 88” being hyped is actually 15 percent ethanol over the 87 octane (10 percent ethanol) fuel.

Dealers should continue to inform their customers that the use of ethanol fuel blends with more than 10 percent ethanol, such as “regular 88,” in recreational boat engines (as well as motorcycles, off-road vehicles and power equipment) is prohibited by federal law. E15 fuels have been proven to damage engines and fuel systems, and its use in a marine engine voids the warranty.

Moreover, even consumers have indicated the need for a better warning label design as well as more prominent placement of the warning label on the pumps. A recent national poll revealed a whopping 82 percent of consumers think the current E15 label used at gas pumps across the country fail to sufficiently warning that E15 is hazardous to certain types of engines.

“Visit a local gas station dispensing higher ethanol fuels and look for the warning label on the pump,” adds Kennedy. “It’s often hidden or buried along with a mountain of promotional signage. EPA should help consumers make the right fuel choice, and efforts to weaken the Misfueling Mitigation Program, such as stripping away label elements that indicate a warning message or excluding mention of 15 percent ethanol altogether, only accommodate the interests of ethanol producers and harm boaters.”

The record is clear that EPA has worked to broaden the availability of E15 in the U.S., including the most recent 2019 repeal of summertime restrictions on its sale. You’ll recall these restrictions were originally put in place years ago to address valid concerns over the higher ethanol fuel’s proven contribution to ground level ozone (smog) on hot days.

Hello – hot days didn’t disappear! So, it’s obvious EPA can make decisions that contradict good policy and science. It’s important that groups like BoatUS leave no doubt with the agency that the warning labels not only must be maintained but improved to protect boaters and all small engine consumers. 

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