The ethanol controversy

The National Marine Manufacturers Association is urging boaters to write President Barack Obama in opposition to a pending increase of ethanol in gasoline. The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to decide within the next few weeks whether to permit the sale of E15 gasoline in the United States, potentially causing extensive damage to outboard engines.

In the spring of 2009, Growth Energy, a pro-corn ethanol lobby group, petitioned the EPA to allow ethanol to comprise up to 15 percent (E15) of gasoline sold in the United States — up from the current level of 10 percent (E10). The EPA had 270 days to make a decision on the waiver petition, which would have been Dec. 1, 2009. On that date, EPA announced that it would delay its decision until late summer of 2010 to allow for additional scientific tests.

The NMMA now anticipates that the EPA will make its decision later this month or early October. NMMA's information indicates that EPA may also grant a "partial waiver" for some on-road vehicles only. This means that E15 would be approved for use in cars of certain model years, but not any marine engines.

The lack of general public understanding of the differences between E10 and E15 increases the risk that boaters may misfuel their engines once E15 becomes readily available at gas stations. E15 will likely be marketed as a less expensive regular-grade fuel, while E10 will only be available in premium grade gasoline. Since consumers make fuel decisions primarily based on price, this increases the risk of misfueling.

NMMA has partnered with other organizations to form the "Say NO to Untested E15" coalition and encourages boaters to visit to write an e-mail to President Obama requesting that he urge the EPA to thoroughly and comprehensively test all gasoline-powered engines, including marine engines, before allowing E15 into the marketplace.