OpEd: At start of the boating season, President’s desire to sell E15 year-round troubles boaters

Guest Editorial from BoatUS

May 24, 2018

Dear Opinion Page Editor:

It’s the kick off to summer boating season, but thanks to President Trump’s recent announcement to allow the sale of E15 (15 percent ethanol) fuel year-round, some boats could be headed for the dry docks. Misfueling, reliability and safety issues, as well as environmental questions have recreational boaters concerned.


Most boat owners refuel their boat at a roadside gas station, not at a marina. If you were to look at your local gas station’s fuel pump today to ensure you didn’t accidentally pump E15 fuel into your boat, the only warning label required on the station’s gas dispenser is an ineffectual, small, square orange label about the size of a pack of cards.

A 2016 Harris Poll found a concerning 64 percent of consumers were not sure or didn’t pay attention to the type of gas they used. Using E15 – even just a little bit – voids all boat engine manufacturer warranties. And unfortunately little effort is being made by the federal government to educate the public. Artificially expanding the market for E15 by allowing year-round sales could make it even more challenging for consumers to find preferred ethanol-free (E0) fuel and increase the risk of misfueling.

92% of those polled for a Boating Industry magazine survey in 2017 found ethanol-related issues on boat engines in their workshops. That’s a troubling statistic considering that the federal government already prohibits the use of fuel greater than E10, or 10 percent ethanol, in marine engines today.


And we’re not achieving environmental progress either with the President’s announcement. The reason why E15 is currently banned for sale by the Environmental Protection Agency during summer months is due to concerns that it contributes to smog on hot days. Ethanol-blended fuels also result in fewer miles per gallon, as ethanol has a third less energy content than gasoline, according to the Department of Energy.

The culprit behind ethanol-blended gasoline is the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) – an outdated, fundamentally broken policy that largely requires an ever-increasing amount of corn-based ethanol to be blended in the nation’s gasoline supply. Passed more than a decade ago, the RFS was intended to lower costs, help the environment, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

However the RFS wasn’t designed to factor in the possibility of reduced gasoline consumption—which is what we are seeing in America. The result is more ethanol has to go into less gas.


As the nation’s largest boating advocacy, services and safety organization, representing more than a half-million boaters across the country, what we’ve come to learn is that the RFS is hurting – not helping – consumers. We’re concerned the President chose to give a hand-out to ethanol special interests, in the form of expanded E15 sales, rather than recognize that the RFS isn’t working for Americans or to allow for other options.

Congress can still step in and take action by repealing the broken RFS and support other types of renewable fuels, such as biobutanol.

In the meantime, boaters beware and look before you pump. Thanks to Washington’s inability to take action, days on the water could get cut short.



Chris Edmonston Vice President Government Affairs Boat Owners Association of The United States

Chris Edmonston is vice president of government affairs for Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatU.S.) the nation’s largest organization of recreational boat owners with over half a million dues-paying members

More articles about ethanol as a boat fuel


BoatUS logo

. BoatUS

More About Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatU.S.)

Celebrating more than 50 years, [BoatUS]( More About Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatU.S.): Celebrating more than 50 years, BoatUS is the nation’s largest organization of recreational boaters with more than a half-million members. We are the boat owners’ voice on Capitol Hill and fight for their rights. We are The Boat Owners Auto Club and help ensure a roadside trailer breakdown doesn’t end a boating or fishing trip before it begins. When boats break down on the water, TowBoatU.S. brings them safely back to the launch ramp or dock, 24/7. The U.S. Marine Insurance Program gives boat owners affordable, specialized coverage and superior service they need. We help keep boaters safe and our waters clean with assistance from the nonprofit BoatU.S. Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water. Visit