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One Fisherman's Ethanol Story
by Chuck Beck and Kristin Brekke

“Hey, what are you doing? You shouldn’t use that in your boat – it’ll cause all kinds of problems.”

Many fellow fishermen tried to warn Brad Kummer of the dangers of using ethanol, yet he filled his tank with an E10 blend each and every time he left his Sauk Centre, Minnesota home to take to the water. Did he have any trouble?

“I never had any problems with the ethanol at all,” Kummer told Ethanol Today, noting a trouble-free ethanol experience during his seven years as a fishing guide on northern Minnesota lakes and as a participant in fishing tournaments across the Midwest.

Brad’s 18.5-foot Warrior boat navigated the crowded waters of Minnesota lakes during local muskie and walleye tournaments, and even made it to Lake Huron and Lake Erie for some events. When he wasn’t competing in tournaments, he served as a fishing guide on Minnesota’s Lake Mille Lacs and Lake Osakis.

All of this fishing added up to constant use on his boat and motor, an estimated 750 hours each summer on his Eagle 1890 with the 125-horsepower motor. Still, using an ethanol blend was his preferred choice.

“I always used ethanol from day one,” Kummer said. “I could never understand all those anti-ethanol warnings that would be in the manual, warning you not to use ethanol because it would do all this harm. I would use it and I never had any problems. And I was getting a new boat each year, and I would put a lot of hours on them as well.”

The media often reports on problems with small engines that are diagnosed as ethanol-related, especially in boats and especially in fuel markets that are using ethanol blends for the first time. Stories of clogged fuel filters, ruined o-rings, and melted fiberglass tanks are common. Separating fact from fiction here is important.

The truth is that small engines can safely and successful use an E10 blend, and problems – regardless of fuel type – can be prevented with common-sense fuel system maintenance.

Contrary to reports, the amount of moisture an ethanol blend absorbs from the atmosphere is insignificant. Extensive testing has shown that even when stored in an open container, the amount of water absorbed by E10 over an entire summer was minimal.

Ethanol advocates have been working toward an approval of a 15 percent ethanol blend, but it’s important to note that, if approved, this would not be an E15 mandate – just an allowance to use up to 15 percent ethanol per gallon where people desire. The American Coalition for Ethanol has been clear that it stands firmly in favor of consumer choice; if E15 is approved, E10 and straight unleaded could still be made available for those who prefer it.

Ethanol does not harm engine parts, and boat owners manuals will document that systems are indeed compatible with up to a 10 percent blend. Ethanol does not affect the mixture of gas and two-stroke engine oil mixtures.

Maintaining a clean fuel tank in your boat will prevent any problems with ethanol loosening contaminants left there by gasoline. Keep fresh fuel in your tank and avoid letting fuel sit for long periods of time. Watch fuel filters and replace them as necessary.

As with non-ethanol fuel, make sure to add fuel stabilizer if you will be storing an engine for a period of time. And, regardless of fuel type, it’s best to fill the tank as full as possible to limit the effects of moisture and to reduce vapors.

Ethanol burns cleaner and cooler than gasoline, and you may even enjoy the enhanced performance of a high-octane ethanol blend, as Brad Kummer does when he enjoys a day on a Minnesota lake.

“I absolutely had great performance while running ethanol in my boat. I never had a problem with a sputtering engine, it was easy to troll, and the acceleration was always good,” Kummer said. “The boats I had ran beautifully, and they almost always had ethanol in them.”

© American Coalition for Ethanol, all rights reserved.
The American Coalition for Ethanol publishes Ethanol Today magazine each month to cover the biofuels industry�s hot topics, including cellulosic ethanol, E85, corn ethanol, food versus fuel, ethanol�s carbon footprint, E10, E15, and mid-range ethanol blends.
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