Yamaha Marine president faults ethanol law in op-ed column

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Ben Speciale

Ben Speciale

The Houston Chronicle published an editorial by Yamaha Marine Group president Ben Speciale discussing the drawbacks of ethanol in gasoline.

Speciale began by saying that Skeeter Boats, Yamaha’s performance fishing boat line, is manufactured in Kilgore, Texas.

Recreational boating supports 31,000 jobs and accounts for $6.8 billion in annual economic benefits in the state, Speciale wrote. The more than 570,000 registered boats in Texas support more than 1,700 businesses.

But the industry is threatened by what Speciale calls an unusual foe — the Renewable Fuel Standard.

“What appears to be an environmentally friendly policy harbors an inefficient and ineffective program that negatively impacts recreational boaters,” Speciale said in the editorial, which was published last Thursday.

The RFS mandates that a certain amount of biofuels be used in the fuel supply, and sets the amounts — which are not a percentage of fuel consumed, but flatly rising amounts over time. Fuel consumption has dropped since the law was passed in 2005 and strengthened in 2007.

That has meant increasing the amount of ethanol, a corn-based biofuel, beyond the so-called “blend wall,” or the amount that most engines can handle. The amount has been E10, or fuel with 10 percent ethanol.

The widespread use of E15, fuel with 15 percent ethanol, has caused problems for small engines, Speciale wrote.

“The overwhelming majority of boats in Texas are small and towable — the kind you throw on a hitch behind your truck and take down to your local lake for a weekend with the family,” Speciale said.

“These boats rely on small outboard engines, which have been shown to develop severe corrosion in their fuel systems when filled with E15 ethanol-based fuels. E15 — an ethanol-blended fuel that has become widely popular — is federally prohibited for use in many engine types, including marine engines, and poses a significant risk to engine performance and boater safety alike,” Speciale wrote.

Speciale argued first to stop the expansion of E15 at gas pumps until problems with the fuel have been addressed. He also asks that there be more extensive education for consumers.

“All too often boaters encounter dangerous issues with their engines as a result of E15 — particularly when E10 is unavailable, making E15 the only fuel available at their local stations,” Speciale said. “Little did consumers know that continued use of E15 caused damage — they simply assumed the gas they get at the pump is safe.”

He called on elected officials to demand that the Environmental Protection Agency make E10 available in all locations that sell E15.

“Without these common-sense solutions, the plight of boaters — in Texas and across the country — will continue to undercut the economic benefits this market segment provides the American economy,” he said.


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