Joe Joslin Outdoors - Guide Service

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Hello, Anglers. As boaters and anglers it is not like we don't already have a challenge paying for expensive outboard motor oil(average $25 per gal) and high octane fuel. Does E15 sound familiar to you? If not, it will before long. The beloved EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) just sent boaters and outboard engine manufacturers a message a few weeks ago...." your face.....Deal With it!!" They (EPA) approved E15(gasoline up to 15% ethanol) with no testing on outboard motors. E10 has been a challenge in and of itself and has caused boaters to add expensive additives (Staybil/Yamaha Ring Free) to try and negate some of the problems a fuel made from grain seems to cause. Does ethanol cause the same concerns for 4-stroke outboards as it does for 2-strokes? Hold the phone, we're working on that answer but so far have not found solid info to say either way but early indications say most likely.

One term in the ethanol issue is called 'phase separation' which happens when gas becomes over-saturated with water, leading the water/ethanol mixture to separate from the gasoline and fall to the bottom of the tank (where the engine's fuel pickup is located). However, since ethanol absorbs water more readily than gasoline and it burns harmlessly through the engine, adding more ethanol to gas will decrease the chance for phase separation. You'd think that would be a good thing, right?

However, as you increase the amount of water in ethanol, this mixture also becomes more acidic, increasing the potential to corrode metal, engine parts plus aluminum fuel tanks. Also keep in mind that once gas has phase separated, the only remedy is to completely empty the tank. Will fuel additives help? BoatUS(Boat Owners Assoc of the US), one of the groups fighting the E15 issue, generally feels that fuel additives are a good thing but evidence of any additive being able to restore phase-separated gas back to its original state has not been documented.

Another huge concern for boaters is that marine engines are only warranted for use with up to 10% (E10) ethanol. While E15 could be fine for your tow vehicle, it's not good nor is it authorized by the EPA for use with boats. Boat US says "A strong solvent, ethanol has been known to degrade marine fuel systems, damage engines, add safety concerns, and lead to expensive repair bills."

Here's another scary statement by BoatUS, "When filling up at gas stations, boaters are used to pulling up to the pump and filling up the tow vehicle first, and then putting the same fuel nozzle into the boat," said BoatUS Director of Damage Avoidance, Bob Adriance. Also adding "If that happens with E15, it could be a big mistake." Gee, that's so comforting...what the heck then are we suppose to do?

What are some of the reasons boat engines have more issues with ethanol? sheds some light on this question with one factor being gas is often stored in our boat gas tanks longer than the 90 days recommended for ethanol-treated gas. While most car/truck owners replace fuel every two weeks, most boat owners do not. Replacing fuel every week or two normally will successfully prevent the possibility of water-contamination/phase separation which is one of the major issues of ethanol. also states that "boat engines live in a water environment and alcohol gas loves to absorb water." Ethanol gas can absorb large amounts of water into the fuel tank, MTBE(ether additive) in conventional gasoline did not. In addition, boat engines usually last longer than cars and using a marine engine from the 1970's or 1980's is not uncommon. says that these older engine parts and tanks were not usually designed or tested to withstand the damaging effects of alcohol gas plus some older marine engines (prior 1992) have plastic and rubber parts and fiberglass tanks that are not compatible with E10 alcohol fuel not to mention E15.

Hold your favorite Skeeter/Yamaha hat...........BoatUS says all of this means that when E15 starts to appear in gasoline stations boaters must heed the warning (EPA Sticker saying E15 is NOT approved for boat engines) on the pump and shouldn't even think about using it in a boat.

Presently, we have no choice if E15 is allowed to happen. We can hope that with some new leadership in the government this can be delayed at least until there is another fuel choice or the outboard industry can figure out how engines can use the alcohol/grain gas. Not everyone is in favor of this EPA move. Besides the boating industry's apposition to E15 for mechanical reasons, there are those that feel strongly about our (United States) being much more aggressive when it comes to exploring/drilling for the huge amounts of oil reserves we have in the ground/bays/oceans.

There are also those who feel that taking huge amounts of sugar cane/grains out of food services and moving it into fuel drives up food costs for everyone. The trends would say this is indeed the case.

There would also be the possibility that the petroleum industry would refine a special gas just for boats but then there would be the problem of it being available in high numbers of service stations plus the costs would be off the charts. In the mean time we can hope E15 never makes it to the gas pump.

One way to minimize the bad impact of ethanol is to use your boat more frequently to keep fresh fuel on board. Now that's the best reason I have ever heard in favor of E15. Fish more!!! And the wife says....."Now can you repeat what you just said about why you are going to fish more?" "Yes, my dear you see....there's this organization call the EPA and " be continued.

Joe Joslin Outdoors
Licensed Guide on Toledo Bend & Sam Rayburn
Tournament Angler & Outdoor Media
Member: Louisiana Outdoor Writers Assoc.& Southeastern Outdoor Press Assoc
160 Country Lane, DeRidder, LA 70634

Phone: (337) 463-3848