Why do we use ethanol-blended fuel and how does it affect us on the water?
The EPACT 2005 (Energy Policy Act), Public Law 109-058 requires the use of increased renewable resources in motor fuels. In most areas of the U.S., ethanol is the most readily available renewable fuel that can be added to conventional gasoline withough major changes. Unfortunately, when introduced into a marine environment, the properties associated with ethanol-blended fuel have been known to cause damage to outboard engines. Currently, many in the marine industry are working to find ways to mitigate any negative effects ethanol-blended fuel may have on marine engines.
What’s happening with ethanol now?
Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) received a waiver request from an ethanol industry group encouraging the agency to raise the ethanol blend wall in gasoline from 10 percent (E10) to 15 percent (E15). Since 1978, the limit has remained at 10 percent (E10) for conventional (non flex-fuel) vehicles.
Growth Energy and 54 ethanol manufacturers submitted the E15 waiver application to EPA on March 6. Current statute calls for EPA to make a decision on the matter within 270 days of receipt, which is December 1.
The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA®) continues to engage Capitol Hill on a number of fronts in response to the E15 petition. As part of a Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee hearing in early April, NMMA® outlined industry concern with mid-level ethanol blends. NMMA® joined the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association and the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute in joint testimony before the Committee.
NMMA® and a diverse group of partners are calling for a “science first” approach that disallows mid-level ethanol blends until comprehensive, independent testing demonstrates they are safe for consumers and do not harm the environment or negatively impact public health.
What does this mean?
“Building outboards compatible with fuel containing 15 percent or more ethanol is technically possible,” said Ben Speciale, Vice President Operations and Planning, Yamaha Marine Group. “The real problem is that there are a lot of older outboards currently in service that cannot run on fuel that contains more than ten percent ethanol. If the EPA rules in favor of this waiver application, hundreds of thousands of boaters will suffer the consequences.”
Why should you care?
This is an issue impacting almost every boater on the water this summer. With modern marine engines only designed to handle E10 fuel, increasing the blend wall to E15 could have potentially disastrous consequences for marine engine performance, creating a multitude of unhappy boaters and causing a sea of complications for engine maintenance and functionality. If the ethanol content in gasoline were to increase from 10 percent to 15 percent without proper testing, an unforeseen number of marine engines could be irreparably damaged.
The bottom lines is that if the ethanol content in fuel is increased to 15 percent, many boaters across the country could be faced with engine problems resulting in costly repairs.
What can you do about it?
If you would like to weigh in on the subject of potentially increasing the ethanol content in gasoline from E10 to E15, EPA is currently soliciting public comment. The association published an official notice in the Federal Register on April 22 www.epa.gov/fedrgstr/EPA-AIR/2009/April/Day-21/a9115.pdf, alerting the public to the E15 waiver application. The comment period will be open for 30 days.
Visit http://www.regulations.gov/ and enter Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2009-0211 to submit formal comments to EPA on the waiver application. You may also contact:
James W. Caldwell
Office of Transportation and Air Quality
Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20460
P: (202) 343-9393
F: (202) 343-2080
In addition, NMMA® has a usefule site that allows you to look up your Representatives and Senators by state and region. If you are interested in contacting these officials, please visit http://capwiz.com/nmma/home/
If you are a boater in Alabama, Massachusetts or Florida, below are a few additional issues you may want to be aware of in your state.
Alabama Representative Barry Mask (R) introduced a bill in February that seeks to set restrictions for houseboats and vessel size and speed http://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/acas/searchableinstruments/2009RS/Printfiles/HB405-int.pdf on Lake Jordan, Lake Harris (Wedowee), Lake Martin and Weiss Lake. The bill proposes banning houseboats entirely on these lakes, as well as banning use of recreational vessels greater than 26 feet, 11 inches and rated by manufacturers for top speeds in excess of 60 miles per hour and boats greater than 30 feet, 6 inches in length.
Contact Rep. Mask
A bill was recently introduced by Massachusetts Senator Michael Morrissey (D) intended to improve and expand public navigational access to Boston Harbor and the City of Boston http://www.mass.gov/legis/bills/senate/186/st00/st00420.html, including the establishment of docking and mooring facilities for recreational boats. A hearing on the proposal is scheduled for April 21, 2009.
Contact Rep. Morrissey
Florida—PWC and Boating Safety
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission adopted amendments to an existing rule back in August 2008 that are set to take effect April 20, 2009 regarding boating safety and Personal Watercraft (PWC). PWC information standards were revised and moved to a new rule that includes safety information standards for other types of vessels. The rule requires all boat and PWC rental operations to display posters and/or signs outlining safety procedures https://www.flrules.org/gateway/readFile.asp?sid=0&tid=7018355&type=1&File=68D-36.109.doc. It also outlines minimum training requirements for PWC rentals https://www.flrules.org/gateway/readFile.asp?sid=0&tid=7018258&type=1 & amp;File=68D-36.107.doc
Contact Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Florida—Tax Cap on Boat Sales
Florida Representative Tom Grady (R) recently introduced bill that would cap the maximum amount of tax collected on any boat sold in Florida at $25,000 http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/sections/Bills/billsdetail.aspx?BillId=40361, effective July 1, 2009. A companion bill has also been introduced in the Senate.
Contact Rep. Grady