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Higher ethanol blend would ruin small engines, makers say

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By Rick Barrett of the Journal Sentinel

 

 

Posted: May. 18, 2009

 

 

An effort to raise the 10% limit on ethanol in gasoline has misfired with Wisconsin engine makers Briggs & Stratton Corp., Mercury Marine, and the maker of Evinrude outboard engines.

 

Testing has not yet shown whether higher levels of the fuel additive are acceptable and safe, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, a Chicago-based trade group, said Monday in a Washington, D.C., news conference.

 

Increasing the ethanol blend to 15%, currently being considered by the Environmental Protection Agency, could damage or ruin millions of small engines and possibly worsen air pollution, according to the engine manufacturers.

 

Engine performance and overheating are among the problems, since most boats, lawn mowers and other outdoor power products haven't been designed to run on 15% ethanol.

 

"As of now, we are finding a lot of issues," said Laura Timm, spokeswoman for Briggs & Stratton, the world's largest manufacturer of small gasoline engines.

 

Ethanol is a fuel additive made from corn. The EPA is considering raising the maximum allowable amount of ethanol in most motor fuel from the current 10% blend to a 15% blend.

 

It's a common-sense solution to economic, energy and environmental challenges, according to Growth Energy, an ethanol industry trade group that's petitioned the government for the change.

 

Savings already

 

By using 10% ethanol in gasoline, the United States has reduced its need for foreign oil by billions of gallons a year. Raising the blend to 15% would save an additional 7 billion gallons of gasoline a year and would create thousands of jobs at ethanol refineries, according to Growth Energy.

 

Keeping the ethanol content of blended gas at 10% could be disastrous for ethanol producers, since the limit has placed a ceiling on their markets.

Already, ethanol plants have closed in Wisconsin and other states because of an oversupply of the fuel additive.

 

"This economic ripple could turn into a tidal wave consuming ethanol producers and (grain) farmers across the country," Growth Energy said in a written statement.

 

Cars and trucks on the road today can run on higher blends of ethanol without modifications, according to Growth Energy. But the higher blends could be disastrous for millions of small gasoline engines not designed to run on the fuel.

 

Unlike vehicles, small engines lack sophisticated fuel systems that compensate for higher amounts of ethanol. As a result, the small engines can overheat, malfunction and be permanently damaged when burning ethanol blends greater than 10%, according to the manufacturers.

 

The damage would not be covered by many warranties, according to small-engine trade associations. There is technical and anecdotal evidence that even 10% ethanol blends have damaged boat engines, the National Marine Manufacturers Association said.

 

Increasing the blend to 15% or more could have catastrophic effects on engines designed, tested and calibrated for fuel containing not more than 10% ethanol, the association said in a written statement.

 

"We completely and wholeheartedly support their view," said Steve Fleming, spokesman for Mercury Marine, a Fond du Lac-based division of Brunswick Corp. "We are absolutely positive that not enough tests have been done" on 15% ethanol, Fleming added.

 

"Our recent experience with a nationwide rollout of E10, a 10% ethanol concentration, leads us to believe there has to be a lot more science and unbiased testing before we can universally accept E15, a 15% ethanol blend," said Margaret Podlich, vice president of government affairs for Boat U.S., the nation's largest recreational boat owners group.

 

"A few years ago no one thought there would be problems with a 10% ethanol blend, and there were. Boaters got stuck with the tab for the repairs," Podlich added. Boaters have reported damage to fuel-system parts from ethanol, including rubber hoses, gaskets and fiberglass fuel tanks.

The EPA regulates fuel additives, including ethanol. It has extended a public comment period on the 15% blend proposal until July 20.

 

The agency might authorize both 10% and 15% blends, although that could create confusion in the marketplace. "People would put the wrong fuel in their tank, and their engine could be ruined," Fleming said.

 

Biofuel advocates say the small-engine industry could make products that run on higher blends of ethanol, and it would be better for the environment.

 

Compatibility costs more

 

"The concern is the cost of those engines," not the technology, said Josh Morby, executive director of Wisconsin Bio Industry Alliance, which represents ethanol producers.

 

"Certainly we recognize that burning ethanol in engines is different than burning gasoline," Morby said. The Environmental Working Group, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit, doesn't favor a higher ethanol blend until tests have proved it's better for the environment.

 

The higher blend may worsen air pollution, said Craig Cox, the group's Midwest vice president, at the news conference. "Growth Energy is lobbying for an industry that cannot survive on its own, even after lavish taxpayer-funded subsidies," Cox said. "We really should be focused mostly on improving the fuel efficiency of cars and trucks. That is a much more effective and rapid way to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels."

 

Ethanol producers say there's no evidence that the fuel additive can damage small engines. But mechanics say it can rust engines, because ethanol attracts water, and it can cause other problems, said Masood Akhtar, president of CleanTech Partners, a Middleton energy consulting firm.

 

"The use of ethanol fuels in small engines is very controversial. This debate will continue and will get more attention as the government mandates more ethanol to replace petroleum," Akhtar said.

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All ready lost 1 lawn mower because of ethanol. Piston has a hole burnt threw it. The repair shop told me they see a lot of it since the introduction of ethanol.

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I don't know who this Growth Energy is. Certainly sounds like someone who has a financial stake in ethanol. Based on the recent reports from the U of MN and the EPA, current ethanol production as bad or worse than burning gas for the planet. Another scary thought is we import ethanol from Chinacwm31.gif Now we may export the grain but they are producing ethanol and exporting it back to us.

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My mower guy hates ethanol/gas . He said I should not use any gas thats been sitting around for more than a month. ( for small engines that is.) He suggested I pour old gas into my trucks tank.

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I've been using high octane gas in my small motors as recommended by my small engine guru, and recently started using it in my truck as well.

Not sure if it mitigates any damage ethanol causes, but it makes the motors run better and the truck gets better gas mileage.

With regular octane ethanol blend my gas mileage and power is noticeably worse.

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View PostI've been using high octane gas in my small motors as recommended by my small engine guru, and recently started using it in my truck as well.

Not sure if it mitigates any damage ethanol causes, but it makes the motors run better and the truck gets better gas mileage.

With regular octane ethanol blend my gas mileage and power is noticeably worse.

 

I always use the highest octane gas in my small engines on the recommendation of my mower guy. You can definitely see the difference.

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Here's the link to the Federal Register Notice, which federal agencies are required to post when they are considering a regulation change. The link is here: http://www.epa.gov/fedrgstr/EPA-AIR/...y-21/a9115.htm

 

In the first paragraph of the FRN, it states:

 

SUMMARY: On March 6, 2009, Growth Energy and 54 ethanol manufacturers

submitted an application for a waiver of the prohibition of the

introduction into commerce of certain fuels and fuel additives set

forth in section 211(f) of the Clean Air Act (``the Act''). This

application seeks a waiver for ethanol-gasoline blends of up to 15

percent by volume ethanol (``E15''). The statute directs the

Administrator of EPA to grant or deny this application within 270 days

of receipt by EPA, in this instance December 1, 2009. In this Notice,

EPA is soliciting comment on all aspects of the waiver application,

including whether a waiver is appropriate for ethanol-gasoline blends

over 10 percent and less than 15 percent.

 

Basically, this consideration to move to E15 is due to a group of people who make and sell the ethanol pressuring the EPA, not due to any documented advantages that E15 provides mad.gif If this isn't pandering, I don't know what is! This would be like Van Staal pressuring the National Park Service to only allow Van Staals on the beach!

 

Fax, email or write to the Acting Assistant Adiminstrator, Elizabeth Craig and let her know that this kind of political pandering will not be tolerated!

 

Fax:

Email: a-and-r-docket@epa.gov.

Snail Mail:Air and Radiation Docket

Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2009-0211,

Environmental Protection Agency Mailcode: 6102T

1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW.

Washington, DC 20460

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