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Editorial: Taking a Stand Against Ethanol

The “greenest” thing about ethanol may be the money made by its proponents.

October 1, 2011
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E10. Our dislike of it stems from the havoc this dubious mix of gasoline and ethanol derived from corn has caused, and continues to cause, in the recreational boating community. Corroded fuel tanks, clogged filters and trashed engines, all at the expense of a bunch of folks trying to enjoy themselves on the water, and the result of a product required under the guise of environmental responsibility. What a crock. I’ll take my corn on the cob, not in my tank, thank you.

Waving the green flag has become big business. So it’s no surprise that the biggest businesses around — that would be Big Oil and the folks who work in the District of Columbia — are waving it most furiously. But like so many bandwagon troupes, they’re selling a Panacea, a magic potion that we’re to believe will free us from the tyranny of foreign oil while cleansing the earth. Bull. That’s just cover for the 45 cents per gallon tax credit that refiners get for blending ethanol with gasoline, a $5 billion annual subsidy. Anybody credit you at the fuel dock lately?

Oh, e10 (gas with 10 percent ethanol) does burn cleaner. The oxygen it contains promotes fuller combustion. You just have to burn more of it to go the same distance or the same speed, as our testing shows (boatingmag.com/lowdown-ethanol).

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But ethanol’s real cost to boaters isn’t reduced range and economy. Its water-attracting qualities put propulsion machinery at risk and require that we take extra steps in the care and maintenance of our engines and fuel systems. Just ask a mechanic, check the fine print on your engine warranty or comfort the guy in the next slip trying to figure out how to properly dispose of his load of phase-separated fuel.

Lobbyists are deploying the soft sell. Since a certain class of race boats now uses e10, they say, it’s certainly good for you and me to feed our engines. Nice try. Race engines get drained, torn down and rebuilt between each use. And let’s not forget that race boats, like race cars, are sponsored: The equipment is sacrificial to the extent that it carries the logo around the course. None of this is true for the boats you and I run.

So, to those of you who’ve stopped me at boat shows, marinas and tournament weigh-ins, those who’ve hooked my elbow at cocktail parties and bent my ear on late-night flights, and those who’ve written, e-mailed and Tweeted their way into my life: To all of you, and anyone else wondering why the World’s Largest Powerboat Magazine isn’t taking a stand against ethanol as a marine fuel, consider your question answered. And thanks for reading.

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