There’s probably some basic scientific proof somewhere proving that adding ethanol to the gasoline powering our engines helps the environment.
It’s also likely that if you ask the Corn Growers of America — OK, that trade/lobby group’s name is Growth Energy — that ethanol will be, if it isn’t already stated in their literature, the savior of our country, maybe the entire planet.
Maybe now that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is trying to raise our gasoline supplies from 10 percent ethanol to a 15 percent-based fuel, there is room to ask a question.
Is increasing the ethanol content in our gasoline supplies good for conservation?
Before answering that question, consider what E10 (10 percent ethanol) has done for sportsmen, not to mention the trips most of us have had to make to the small-engine repair shops during the past several years to get working our lawnmowers, string trimmers and, what’s most important during hurricane season, our generators. Even taking care to use gasoline treatments, draining fuel from lines and running the gasoline dry in engines, every gasoline-powered device I own has been in the shop to repair fuel lines during the past two years.
Moreover, there’s the plight of the tens of thousands of Louisiana boat owners who’ve battled E10 problems in their outboards. Repair shops are replenished weekly with outboards that have succumbed to the destructive properties of ethanol, even after their owners have followed the best instructions to avoid problems like ethanol-rotted fuel lines, gaskets and seals. Then there’s the problem of dealing with this blended fuel that increases water build-up in fuel tanks.
It’s no wonder that outdoor writers’ emails across the country have been filled with bulletins from the National Marine Manufacturers Association decrying the increase to 15 percent and noting, many more times than once, that less than 10 percent of cars and light trucks and virtually no outboard nor small engines are approved to run on E15.
Despite the outcry from NMMA and a handful of conservation groups, Sierra Club among then, mandatory E15 talks continue in the halls of the EPA.
Until the EPA allows engine makers and suppliers to come up with power plants and parts capable of handling E15, there’s no way any outdoorsman should tolerate this move, a substance that without warning, can leave us high, but not dry, in any distance from a landing or safe haven.
But the bigger point to make here is conservation. More corn production means more farmers taking marginal lands to grow corn. And that means less and less space for migratory birds and waterfowl and other animals that have adapted to using this marginal acreage for their homes.
That, as much as Growth Energy, should be part of this discussion, too.