Firestorm of Outrage Over Ethanol Fuel Fiasco - 05/28/2008
Last month we published an article about a California lawyer who has created a class action suit against the oil companies for putting ethanol in marine fuel which ended up destroying the fiberglass fuel tank in his old boat. The article hit a raw nerve among BTC readers who have experienced the problem. Letters poured in from all over the country recounting how E10 has ruined carburetors, fuel tanks and gas engines. Dozens want to join the class action and add California and the U.S. Congress to the list.
Marlow Marine now replaces its tanks by cutting out a section of the bottom of the boat so that the tank can be easily extracted.

The tank is then removed without having to rip out cabin soles, furniture and topsides.

Once the new tank is installed, the hull section is glassed back in place.

Several years ago when E10 was quietly introduced to the north shore of Long Island Sound (home base of, boaters began having trouble with their outboard motors. The carburetors gummed up, injectors became clogged and engines would stall out when boaters were in the middle of the Sound. Outboard dealers and mechanics all had a different answer to the problem and it was over a year before the word got around that the problems had been caused by ethanol.

It turns out that these boat owners were only the tip of the iceberg, and their problems were minor compared to what was to come. Namely, in boats "built before the early 1980s" ethanol can degrade the resin in some fiberglass tanks. We are told that in the mid-80s boat builders changed the formula of the resin they were using and that ethanol does not cause a problem with the newer fuel tanks.

Ethanol, the New Sacred Cow

Scant mention of this problem has been made in the boating press, yet it exists nonetheless. The letters below, culled, from an avalanche we received from our readers may be instructive, not only about what E10 can do to your old fuel tank and engine, but also about the very existence of it in the first place as a U.S. "energy policy."

Many "experts" say that it takes more than a gallon of fuel to make a gallon of ethanol. Other "experts" say that is not true and defend turning corn into ethanol. But BTC readers are showing the way. Listen...

Untitled Page Boat-Owners Speak Out

Mr. Turner is a Lawyer
It's important to keep in mind that Mr. Turner is no stranger to litigation; and not because he's an attorney either. He seems to seek-out lawsuits that have the potential to line his pockets. He also produces a "weight loss" product that is nothing more than a diuretic, and is dangerous to use. "Lose 10 pounds in 48 hours!" Perhaps someday he will be the target of a law suit. He has made millions by .... advertising that junk. Maybe he should take a mil of that money and buy a newer boat.

Benedict Arnold
The oil companies were only doing what they were mandated to do. I say sue the State of California for the idiotic ethanol mandate.
--R Merriman

Oregon Rocks!
The state of Oregon has passed legislation specifically eliminating ethanol from marine fuel docks. Someone is going to get killed when a tank collapses and a spark ignites the resultant flood of fuel into who knows where. This is incredibly scary as no one is safe. It could be the boat next to you in the marina that blows up.
--M Generales

Yankee with Two Heads
I had an older boat in New York with steel tanks About 3 years ago I started having problems with plugged filters and carbs. I did find out later on that it was a problem with ethanol in the gas. I added a better fuel filter system and changed filters often. So I sold the boat dirt cheap. Now I live in South Carolina and I talk to people about ethanol in fuel and they look at me like I have two heads. People need to be aware of this problem be for it gets their boat.
-- D Gardner

Florida Ethanol Problems
I know of charter boat captains here in Florida who has been caught off guard too. I'm personally having problems with my Yamaha 2 stroke and Ethanol. My Yamaha dealer confirms that it is a real issue with 2 stroke engines. I know of some older cars that are having issues as well as some 4 stroke engines. Thanks, I really needed more problems. --R Shirley

First, Accuse the Gas Dealer
Since most boaters are not mechanics and don't understand it at all they are likely not aware of the real source of the problem. Therefore, they are certainly blaming their gas dealer first for selling them bad/old stuff.
--R Busque

I am thrilled that someone is taking this ethanol boondoggle to the test. It is a complete scam on every gasoline user! --B Adams

Class Action for Everyone!
Hello, I would like this law suit expanded to cover the rest of the U.S.! I have the same problem and can't afford to replace my tanks. My engines are probably damaged also. I live in Maryland and would gladly sign up for a class action suit. --E Dippel

The state of Calif. must have known about this and should pay up for repairs. Saying they never heard of this before doesn’t sound right. Someone had to know. I wonder who told the State of Calif. it was a safe product.
-- E Cole

Is Air Next?
It is about time someone gets the ball rolling on counteracting the few people that think they should dictate the way the rest must live. Using food to create fuel and have a net loss is unbelievable.
-- Don

Water for Gasoline
Someone told me that ethanol is not used in planes for exactly the reasons described in this article. If this is the case, it is too bad boaters were not as 'fuel savvy' as pilots. Also the article keeps saying the 'effects have been well known for some time.' I can't find any consensus on the subject even now. Thirdly, ethanol is a ridiculous farce, if one considers the manufacture of the substance i.e. amount of the very precious substance water required to manufacture it. Not to mention a myriad of other problems like food?
--J Matthew

Ethanol Hurts Seals
It's about time someone took action. Not only does Ethanol have adverse effects on fiberglass tanks but it damages seals in old motors. It actually decreases fuel economy and the oil companies knowingly get away with this and no one holds them accountable. I think a class action lawsuit is justified. However I do believe this is a no-win case for the boater as Washington and the oil companies are above the law. Good luck with the lawsuit.
--J Salvin

Just Following Orders
I hope he wins. The oil companies knew that there was a problem and did not exercise due diligence to prevent it. They should have posted warnings at every gas dock.
--R McCutheon

Rusty Carbs
I have a 4 year old boat and I have replaced the carb 2 times. The 2nd one at a cost of $450.00. Mercury doesn't feel it is responsible. Their own engineer admitted that they knew of the problems it caused, collecting water and actually causing rust in the carburetor. I am now using a chemical treatment developed for this problem but it has only been one season so I don't really know if it works. Fortunately it is a newer boat so the fuel tank is not affected.
--A Cohen

The Sgt. Schulz Defense
I think he's right; the oil company should be responsible they make changes to fuel with out thinking it totally through. Charge the customer extra money for additives. Now the boat owner not only pays an astronomical amount for the fuel now he has to add more additives to stop his boat from father problems. The fuel companies are making record high profits with no regard for Joe Public. They need to pay for damages.

Thanks for No Tanks
Same thing happened to my boat a 22' 1987 Tripp Angler. It is a high quality, Downeast style, inboard powered boat built by F.L. Tripp in Westport, MA. Ethanol dissolved the boat's two built-in fiberglass tanks. The liquefied resin then passed right through the fuel filter and into the engine where it then hardened on the valves, pistons, intake manifold etc. The engine, a fresh water cooled 305ci V-8 MerCruiser inboard was destroyed. Two surveyors, one hired by my insurance company (Travelers) and the other one, hired by me, both confirmed that it was ethanol that ruined my boat. Traveler’s Insurance company told me that ethanol damage is not covered by any insurance company and that they would not cover the $15,000 cost to replace the tanks and/or the engine. The boat still has not been repaired.
--F Brown

Thinking Ahead
Great article...thank you. I would like to join in the class action lawsuit, as I spent more than $6,000 with Anderson Boat Yard in Sausalito to replace the fiberglass tanks on my 1969 Hatteras tri-cabin with Coast Guard approved aluminum gas tanks in 2006. I figured I could not take a chance with the safety of my family or passengers.
--G. Belly

Sue Congress, Too!
Include the US Congress [in the class action suit]. The facts were well known before the passing of a law that required even a greater quantity of ethanol to be used.
--R Jones

Water Separates
I have a 2004 Sea Ray 215 Weekender that was stored for 2+ years. The fuel was properly stabilized prior to storage, however the boat is suffering from the effects of ethanol induced water accumulation in the fuel tank. Several fuel separators / filters later the problem persists and time and labor to resolve the problem are expensive.
-- Andy

Ethanol Down Under
I live in Australia apart from BoatTEST I haven't heard a peep, absolutely nothing from the oil companies as far as boats are concerned, I have been warning my friends and none of them knew. Thanks BoatTEST.
--Tony Adams