‘Big Ethanol’ Ad Criticized by Recreational Boating Group

Renewable Fuels Association's advertisement sparks outcry from group opposing government mandate

non-ethanol gas prices for boats
BoatUS criticized a new ad campaign promoting use of the Renewable Fuel Standard, a 2005 law. Courtesy BoatUS

ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA — Recreational boating organization BoatUS criticized one of America’s top ethanol trade associations, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA), for a new advertising campaign published on the Ethanol Producer Magazine’s website.

The campaign, tied to the start of boating season, supports the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), a 2005 law which BoatUS said mandates the blending of biofuels such as corn-ethanol into our gasoline. Groups have long opposed this legislation and made attempts for change.

BoatUS said the advertisement includes a lot of alternative facts and issued a press release explaining how the RFA is misrepresenting information.


First, BoatUS highlighted the ad campaign’s claim that “E10 is the fuel of choice for many boaters because of its high performance and lower emissions.” Boat US says this is misleading because E10 is “simply the most common fuel sold in America today,” but that does not mean it is recreational boaters’ preferred choice of fuel.

According to those surveyed by BoatUS, 91 percent prefer non-ethanol fuel for their boats,” BoatUS says. “Unfortunately, non-ethanol gas is facing more uncertainty as the government mandate to increase the volume of ethanol in the nation’s fuel supply may actually reduce the availability of ethanol-free gas.”

The second misleading fact BoatUS highlighted was the RFA’s claim that E10 is the “preferred choice by professionals” with quotes quotes by the National Boat Racing Association and Crappie Masters offered as examples of such experts. BoatUS notes that both organizations are sponsored by the RFA.


The third “spin” noted was the ad campaign’s tip to “ensure a tight seal, if water is found, dry the tank before refueling.” BoatUS called this suggestion “impractical and potentially very unsafe” because “removing and disposing of phase-separated fuel – a result of too much water in moisture-attracting ethanol fuels – can only be done safely by professionals and is expensive.”

The last part criticized is the RFA’s suggestion that “regular maintenance is key.” BoatUS said that a 2016 survey by Boating Industry magazine blames ethanol for a large amount of boat engine damage, with 87 percent of survey respondents crediting ethanol for such damage. One manufacturer was cited by BoatUS saying, “Ethanol is a boom for the service departments (and a) huge drag on our industry because it negatively affects the customers. It makes them hate boating. It ruins their day, their boat and their entire boating experience.”

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