One of the joys of being retired is that I get to read more of the newspaper each evening. Now the front page has all of the big stories that are of worldwide importance, like the Kim Kardashian marriage that lasted only 72 days. But if you read the inside pages, you can find some very interesting information. On page 5 of our local daily paper here in the agriculture heartland was an article that caught my eye. The headline read: “Study: E15 damages boat engines.”
The basis of the article was that the US government contracted with an outboard engine manufacturer to test an auto fuel containing 15% ethanol in three different engines. The 200-hp engine threw a rod and was destroyed. The 300-hp engine cracked a valve and was shut down early. The little 9.9-hp engine completed the test, but was misfiring, ran poorly and the fuel pump gasket showed deterioration.
The first great quote was: “The ethanol industry worries that reports about the risk to engines that won’t be allowed to use E15 are giving the fuel a bad name before the product reaches the market.”
The problem here is that E10 is not supposed to be used in these engines or in aviation applications either. But the ethanol lobby has convinced a lot of state legislations to outlaw all non-ethanol fuels in their states. Even if you are not supposed to use ethanol fuels in these applications, fuels without ethanol are not available.
The other quote that got to me was: “Ethanol trade groups said the testing wasn’t comprehensive enough.”
I am having a great deal of trouble here finding adjectives that truly express my feelings on this statement, but that are printable in this magazine. We have all of this data on E10 causing problems in aviation, boating, antique, and other recreational vehicles.
The science is well documented. Ethanol has a lower stoichiometric air/fuel ratio, so when E10 or E15 is used in an engine, it will lean out the air/fuel ratio. Therefore, if an engine is running at high load and on the rich side of stoichiometric, the ethanol fuel will lean out the mixture, which raises peak temps and pressure, which can lead to engine failure.
So let’s review: All of the historical data shows that ethanol fuel will damage these engines, and all of the tests to date confirm that ethanol will damage these engines. So when they run even more tests and ethanol causes a failure in three out of three engines, the ethanol trade group says it is not comprehensive enough! How many failures do they want?
I know that selling my corn crop for about $7 a bushel was nice, and I hate to bite the hand that feeds me and my hobbies, but some time, some where, someone has got to say that famous line: “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”
Oh wait — this is a lobbyist group talking to Congress, so the truth does not need to enter into the discussion as it is apparently irrelevant.
Ben Visser is an aviation fuels and lubricants expert who spent 33 years with Shell Oil. He has been a private pilot since 1985. You can contact him at Visser@GeneralAviationNews.com.