E15 Damage to Motorboat Engines

E15 Damage to Motorboat Engines

Updated September 2017

Current Situation

About half of all anglers—both freshwater and saltwater—primarily use a boat while fishing. Over more than a decade, the fishing and boating community has become increasingly concerned about the push for ethanol fuel blends because of their significant detrimental effects on marine engine durability, performance and emissions. These engines are designed for no more than 10-percent-per-gallon ethanol blends.

Current proposals by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would continue to increase the use and concentrations of ethanol in the nation’s gasoline and diesel supplies. For 2017, the EPA proposed to exceed last year’s volume by 300 million gallons, which would bring total production of ethanol to 14.8 billion gallons and cause average concentrations of ethanol to exceed 10 percent per gallon.

The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and partners are finalizing a petition [to whom], working with Members of Congress on legislation to [do what] and continuing efforts through Keep America Fishing and the Smarter Future Fuel coalition to promote sensible policies on biofuels.

Our Position

ASA opposes any legislation or policy that facilitates the introduction of fuel blends up to 15 percent ethanol into the marketplace before a thorough review has been completed and deemed them safe for all engine types. ASA is working shoulder-to-shoulder with its longstanding partner, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, which has the lead on this issue.

ASA’s position is based on the following:

  • Most marine and other small gasoline-powered engines are designed, calibrated and certified to run on no more than 10 percent ethanol. Higher concentrations of ethanol pose serious mechanical problems for these engines, affecting their durability, performance and emissions.
  • Other factors warranting consideration of using higher ethanol concentration blends include problems related to vehicle and engine warranties and the need for a supporting infrastructure, such as gasoline distribution systems.
  • Additionally, an increase in ethanol allowances carries serious environmental concerns, since corn production requires significantly more water than most other crops and leads to greater runoff of nutrients and other pollutants into watersheds.

Issue Background

Growth Energy, a coalition of ethanol producers, is working to increase the amount of ethanol blended into a gallon of gasoline up to 15 percent (E15). Growth Energy submitted an application to the EPA that would waive the current Clean Air Act limitation on ethanol content in gasoline and authorize the use of higher ethanol blends.

In 2005, Congress established the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) to promote the use of alternative biofuels in conjunction with traditional gasoline. The biofuel of choice quickly became ethanol, a corn-based alcohol. Then, in 2007, Congress expanded the RFS, mandating that fuel suppliers blend higher concentrations of ethanol into the nation's gasoline and diesel supplies.

A 2007 RFS update required the EPA, which sets the RFS, to include yearly, increasing benchmarks for the minimum volume of ethanol required to be blended into the consumer fuel supply.

In October 2010, the EPA announced it would approve Growth Energy’s petition and allow for E15 for use in vehicles made since the 2007 model year. Three months later, the agency announced its decision to approve the use of E15 in light-duty vehicles made since the 2001 model year. Following the announcement, the EPA fielded significant questions and concerns regarding anticipated problems with consumer confusion and the risk of using the wrong fuel.

In April 2012, the EPA approved the first applications for registration of ethanol for use in making E15 gasoline. Registration of ethanol to make E15 is a significant step toward its production, sale and use in model year 2001 and newer gasoline-fueled cars and light trucks. To enable widespread use of E15, the Obama Administration set a goal to help fueling station owners install 10,000 blender pumps over the following five years.

Members of Congress and various industries, from recreational boating to food production, raised concerns that the EPA’s vehicle testing was insufficient and pushed for the continued use of E10. Meanwhile, some biofuel advocates pushed for the future allowance of up to 30 percent ethanol blends. Vehicle manufacturers will void warranties for engine damage due to use of the E15 blend. Motorist advocacy group, AAA has also spoken out against the high blend and has asked the EPA for better studies for all engine types.

In August 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit dismissed a challenge brought by the Engine Products Group seeking to overturn the EPA’s decision to increase E15 in the U.S. fuel supply. The challenge was dismissed on procedural grounds.

In May 2015, the EPA proposed long-anticipated Renewable Volume Obligations (RVOs) in compliance with the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act. For 2016, the volume of corn-based ethanol to be added to gasoline supplies was set at 14 billion gallons; far beyond what current infrastructure, such as gas stations and car engines, is equipped to handle. During the public comment period, ASA submitted a letter opposing the excessive ethanol obligations and calling for a reduction in ethanol to protect anglers and boaters.

In November 2015, the EPA released its final rule on 2014, 2015 and 2016 volume obligations that laid out the target amounts of various renewable fuels the nation must produce.

The EPA is legally required to set target volumes in November of the year seceding the affected year but missed that deadline for 2014 and 2015. While the ruling set volume targets for ethanol below statutory mandates set by Congress in 2007, they are still far afield of consumer demand, making the sale of high ethanol blends ever more likely.

The release of the EPA’s final rule coincided with an announcement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) of $100 million in grants to subsidize installation of E85 blender pumps. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership grants would provide funding to 21 states for infrastructure for 5,000 pumps at 1,400 gasoline retail stations, more than doubling the number of stations offering E15 nationwide. In Iowa alone, the USDA anticipated that 187 new E15 pumps would be installed as the result of this program.

In May 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released their proposal to elevate the production of corn-based ethanol.

For 2017, the EPA proposed to exceed last year’s volume by 300 million gallons, which would bring total production of ethanol to 14.8 billion gallons and cause concentrations to exceed E10. ASA’s KeepAmericaFishing campaign on ethanol sparked thousands of anglers to write to the EPA, urging them to lower the ethanol volume obligation for next year. As in 2015, ASA submitted comments in opposition to the proposed increase.

New legislation surrounding this issue [missing info] as well as finalizing a petition that ASA, the National Marine Manufacturers Association and BoatU.S. put together.

ASA, as part of the Smarter Fuel Future coalition, remains committed to educating the public on the negative consequences of the ethanol mandate, while advocating Congress and the Administration fix this failed policy. For more information, visit smarterfuelfuture.org.