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Friday, May 22, 2009

ESPN, Boating and Ethanol

The reach of government mandates sometimes surprises people – too often including the politicians and appointees doing the mandating.

Consider the current debate over ethanol subsidies and mandates. It got some coverage by ESPN.

An article covered various angles of the ethanol debate, but the unique aspect of the report was its reference to the impact on boating and the boating industry.

The entire piece should be read, but it’s worthwhile to note the following here:

Most gas-operated engines are designed and calibrated to handle E10. The long-term effects it has on engines, fuel lines and fuel system components are less understood.

"There are about 18 million boats in this country, and about 98 percent of them are trailerable," says Matthew Dodd, the legislative director for the NMMA. "The owners pull into gas stations somewhere, fill up their boats' fuel tanks, often if not usually with E10 fuel, and head for the water. The boats run, but it's the after-effects that we have questions about."

Generally, such concerns involve:

• The affinity between ethanol and water, which encourages condensation and causes more corrosion in metal parts

• The fact that ethanol burns hotter and faster than regular unleaded gas, which ultimately shortens engine life

• The heat buildup in engines, which could lead to vapor lock in the carburetion system and sudden engine failure

Other issues relate to the caustic effect of ethanol on various resins and materials in fuel lines and fiberglass gas tanks.

Last winter, for example, Toyota recalled more than 200,000 Lexus cars to replace fuel-line components damaged by ethanol residue, and then spent big bucks making sure all of its vehicles could thwart the deleterious effects of E10.

Outboard engine purchasers also spend big bucks on what they assume will be an investment they can count on for 10 or 15 years, at least. Depending on the horsepower rating, engine prices vary from a few hundred dollars to more than $20,000 for a top-of-the-line model in the 350-horsepower range. Offshore anglers in the Great Lakes or along the coasts typically pair outboards, and might spend more than $30,000 for twin 250-hp engines.

"As we see it, it's not that outboard engines won't operate on E15, it's that they won't function well over time," says Martin Peters, of Yamaha. "We've fielded customer complaints about the indirect damage of ethanol on their engines. Somebody asks them if they burn E10 in their engines frequently, and the answer in the majority of such cases is yes. So we see a definite correlation there. Typically, the owners of outboards rightfully expect them to remain operable for many years. That's a fair expectation; we've all got to help ensure that those outboard owners aren't ignored in all this."

Raymond J. Keating
Chief Economist
Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What is your point? That Lexus is ignorant and anything can happen to a marine engine. Let's suppose that ethanol was not an option and these engines still failed. What would be the scapegoat for failure...The manufacturer. It states in the ESPN column that research and developement costs are to be minimized. Therefore it is easier to blame something else for failure because god forbid that the producers foot the bill rather than the general public. It is time we see the forest through the trees here and realize that big oil and all others that could lose profits due to ethanol blending are going to deface this fledgling industry. Look who is getting into ethanol now, Valero and Sunoco. It floors me that the door opens and they jump in. Not only do they get the 45 cent blender credit but they can improve their profit margin on the ethanol end as well. They are not dumb for getting into ethanol because it is here to stay and they realize that. Keep American $ in America. Keep American Jobs in America. Go Ethanol!