No matter how hard the Green Lobby pushes ethanol in gasoline, there is no debate: it is the scourge of outboard motors, 4-strokes included. Currently all Maine gasoline contains 10 percent ethanol, which is alcohol made from corn.There is a move afoot at the national level to add an even  higher ethanol content (15 percent)  to our gasoline at the pump. This is crazy. Environmentalism has run amok!

Maine can ban ethanol gasoline if it has a mind to, all it takes is state legislators with gumption. There is at least one state lawmaker who is on the right track. Rep. Jeff Timberlake from Turner is sponsoring LD 115: “An Act to Join in a Prohibition on Motor Fuel Containing Corn-Based Ethanol.” This winter an outright Maine ban of ethanol gasoline seemed out of reach, but that is no longer the case. The House recently voted 109-32 in favor of Timberlake’s bill, which will ban the sale of ethanol-containing gasoline in the state. There is a catch though: The prohibition would only take effect if two other New England states passed similar laws. New Hampshire is close to an outright ban of ethanol gasoline.

Timberlake’s bill gets the discussion going and perhaps there can be a compromise. At the very least, consumers in Maine, especially boaters and small engine operators, should have a choice. Non-ethanol gas should be available at the pumps.

According to the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), ethanol is just plain bad news for marine engines. OPEI, and some other spokesmen from the small engine community, have listed some of the nettlesome outcomes of burning ethanol gasoline in your outboard motors:

1. Reduced shelf life of gas stored in your tank.

2. Ethanol will attract and absorb water and moisture.

3. Damage to pistons (engine seize ups) and other moving parts.

4. Reduced engine performance.

5. Ethanol acts as a solvent, dissolving plastic, rubber, fiberglass, and aluminum.

6. Ethanol is a drying agent. It will disintegrate parts in your outboards and other small engines.

7. Ethanol will dissolve resins that create sludge, clogging your carburetors and filters.

This winter in Islamorada, Florida (Florida Keys), which is a big boating-fishing area, boat owners have been flocking to the one gas station in town that is selling non-ethanol gasoline. A mechanic at the Mercury dealership in Key Largo told me that the inside of rubber gas hoses on external gas tanks (with plastic liners) are being disintegrated by ethanol gasoline and raising havoc with outboards.

According to Melissa Morrill, a spokeswoman for the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Maine has no law requiring ethanol in gasoline. The ethanol gasoline is a Congressional mandate, and one pushed by the American corn growers whose crops are subsidized by you and me, the taxpayers.

What’s most aggravating about this whole issue is the fact that, for all of this grief for the consumer, there really is no substantive environmental benefit or trade-off. Ethanol gas does nothing for energy independence.The manufacture of ethanol creates its own carbon footprint before it ever gets to the gas tank. Corn should be used for food, not fuel. The ethanol experiment springs from corporate farming and corn politics, period. A surplus of taxpayer-subsidized corn is driving the ethanol scam. As the Wall Street Journal opined in a recent  editorial, “Ethanol is one of the most shameless energy rackets going.” All of us, sportsmen and non-sportsmen alike, have through our complacency allowed the U.S. Congress and Big Corn to jam ethanol gasoline down our throats.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He isalso a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WQVM-FM  101.3) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is [email protected] and his new book is “A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook.”


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