On Dec. 1, 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it will delay a final decision on Growth Energy's petition to allow ethanol blends up to E15 into the gas market until more testing data is available. The decision is regarded as a clear acknowledgement of widespread concerns about E15 on the environment, engines and consumers.
The National Marine Manufacturers Association has long called for more testing given the serious concerns about the potential impacts of mid-level ethanol blends on recreational marine engines and boats, including increased air emissions, performance and durability issues and warranty concerns. No recreational marine engines, fuel systems or boats are currently designed, calibrated, certified or warranted to run on any fuel with more than 10 percent ethanol.
The EPA's announcement notes that studies to date indicate that higher blends such as E15 may be tolerated by newer automobiles, but that further and longer-term studies are pending. The EPA has not conducted any studies on marine engines as well as a wide array of other non-road engines, as is required by law.
The EPA suggests it may approve E15 for 2001 and newer vehicles by mid-2010 unless data reveal problems. The NMMA's view is that no decision should be made on E15 until all independent scientific studies confirm that it is compatible with both on-road and non-road engines.
"We are pleased that EPA has acknowledged our concerns with E15 and elected to delay final judgment until more studies can be completed. We continue to call for more testing on marine engines and boat fuel systems," said Mat Dunn, NMMA Legislative Director. "Any attempt to bifurcate the fuel supply by allowing E15 for only certain automobiles would lead to a myriad of misfueling, liability and consumer safety issues and likely cause the price of fuel for boaters to increase while availability of compatible blends decreases. Although EPA has noted that it is working on pump labeling requirements should higher blends be permitted in the marketplace, it is not yet clear if these efforts are sufficient to ensure that the nation's 70 million boaters are protected from these very serious concerns."