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Is ethanol a boat sinker and a chicken killer?

Agriculture.com Staff 07/10/2009 @ 2:14pm

After a wave of thunderstorms rolled over Iowa, a nice weekend is in store. Boaters will be out on the lakes and reservoirs, but maybe not all boat owners.

A few have been busy e-mailing the Environmental Protection Agency to voice opposition to allowing 15% ethanol in gasoline. They're responding to a petition from the ethanol lobbying group, Growth Energy, that asked the EPA to grant a waiver to allow fuel blenders to add another 5% ethanol to the current maximum blend of 10%. The July 20 deadline for sending comments to the EPA is approaching.

Some boaters are worried.

"Please fully investigate and test the issues around more ethanol in the gas before changing the laws," pleads a member of the Peninsula Yacht Club in Redwood City, California. "Lets not have another problem like with MTBA."

Robert Hladik of the Virginia Bass Federation writes that "I have deep reservations about increasing the ethanol content in gasoline to 15%. My bass boat is powered by a Mercury Optimax motor that can live with 10% ethanol. Any higher percentage will destroy my gas lines, seals, filters, etc."

Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis sees the invisible hand of oil behind this.

"There's just a well-organized campaign out there, probably funded by big oil, that just doesn't want to see our country move toward energy independence," he says.

But the boaters aren't alone.

The environmental group, the Union of Concerned Scientists urges the EPA to "reject the E15 petition as a premature, unnecessarily piecemeal approach" to regulating renewable fuels. And the National Chicken Council worries about vehicle damage and warranty issues from E-15, lack of complete testing on engines running on E-15 and the price of corn.

"Our members companies and other corn users would pay the cost of whatever benefit accrues to the ethanol makers, while vehicle owners take the risk of degraded vehicle performance. This seems to be an unreasonable burden on corn users for very limited benefit to a particular sector of the economy," writes George Watts, president of the group that represents 95% of all chicken sold in the U.S.

After a wave of thunderstorms rolled over Iowa, a nice weekend is in store. Boaters will be out on the lakes and reservoirs, but maybe not all boat owners.

Buis sees it differently. Corn prices are hardly rising. And testing has already shown that E-15 does not harm automobile performance. Nor would boaters have to buy E-15.

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