Since 2007, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been ramping up the renewal fuel standards program in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while expanding the nation’s reliance on renewable fuels.

While the efforts to reduce dependence on foreign energy while reducing emissions have been particularly well-intention, the increased levels of corn-ethanol in fuel at the pumps has created a few problems, particularly for boat owners.

Since the incorporation of a 10 percent ethanol mix (E10) over the past decade, the alcohol used as a fuel additive has caused numerous engine problems and damage, particularly in the marine outboard environment in terms of phase separation in the gas.

While use of additives like STA-BIL, Starbrite, Fuel Ox and Star Tron during the summer and at winter layup has helped reduce many engine, hose and tank problems, boating groups like the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) are concerned about the EPA’s plans to increase the ethanol blend to 15 percent (E15).

The boating industry says anything above E10 can pose serious problems, including performance issues such as stalling, corrosion leading to oil or fuel leaks, increased emissions and damaged valves, rubber fuel lines and gaskets.

“It has been proven that E15 and higher blends destroy marine engines, void warranties and leave boaters stranded on the water. With the EPA forcing more E15 onto the market, the government is jeopardizing the boating industry and endangering the boating public,” NMMA said in a letter sent to members of Congress in 2016. “Considering that 97 percent of boats are fueled up at gas stations, the likelihood of accidental misfueling is high.”

EPA is now accepting public comment to their proposed rule regarding renewable fuel levels for 2018; under their proposal for next year, the availability of ethanol free and E10 gasoline continues to be in jeopardy, while the presence of E15 will continue to grow, jeopardizing boats and boat engines across the country. While the federal agency has approved partial waivers for older model cars also facing serious mechanical problems from E15, nothing has been done to address the problem with boat engines

Boating United, a coalition of recreational boating and fishing organizations that includes NMMA, the Recreational Fishing Alliance, Center for Sportfishing Policy and others, has been managing an online campaign to inform policy makers in Washington on the critical need for boaters need to be able to fill their boat with the fuel of their choice.

“One of the greatest concerns facing the recreational boating industry today relates to the Renewable Fuel Standard, specifically the introduction of E15 into the marketplace,” the letter states, continuing by adding “The potential for consumers to use fuel with a percentage of ethanol above 10 percent in boat engines is detrimental to the U.S. recreational boating industry, an important economic driver for large parts of the country.”

“There are serious and well-documented human safety, environmental, and technology concerns associated with ethanol blends over 10 percent in recreational boat fuel tanks and engines,” it continues.

The EPA is accepting comments through August 31, 2017, and while online petitions rarely get traction in terms of legislation, the Boating United coalition hopes to generate enough feedback from the boating public to get the Trump administration to understand the gravity of the situation for over 100 million Americans; in fact a just released 2016 Recreational Boating Participation Study reveals that an estimated 142 million Americans went boating in 2016, roughly 36 percent of households in the United States.

“Boaters can’t assume that every fuel sold at gas stations will work in marine engines,” said BoatUS President Margaret Podlich. “Boats can only run on 10 percent or less ethanol content (E10) fuel-and we know many boaters prefer to use ethanol-free (E0) when possible. Unfortunately, as a result of the federal ethanol fuel mandates (RFS), boaters may face a much harder time this summer finding the E0 fuel they want. And with more E15 forced into the fuel supply by the RFS, the threat of accidental misfueling-especially at gas stations with blender pumps-is growing.”

An estimated 95 percent of boats are filled at retail gas stations, but a 2016 Harris Poll commissioned by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute found a startling 60 percent of consumers believe any gas sold at retail stations is suitable for all engines and products. Further, only 36 percent know E15 is harmful to some engines-with just five percent aware that its use in those engines is also illegal.

Act now and ask EPA for continued access to ethanol free and E10 gasoline; you have until the end of this month to meet the latest public comment period deadline which addresses this proposed rule pm renewable fuel levels for 2018.

Now is your chance to let them know that boaters need access to ethanol free and E10 gasoline-and not more E15.

Sign the letter now at Boating United’s website.