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Green Expo: Ethanol headaches and possible cures

Consumer Reports News: October 28, 2011 01:11 PM

One of the stars of this year’s Green Industry and Equipment Expo (GIE+Expo) isn’t permitted into the exhibit hall during show hours. It’s the ethanol mixed with gasoline at most pumps in the country. And when the conversation wasn’t about products to counter ethanol’s corrosive effects, it was about how the industry is supposed to teach customers not to put E15 into their gas cans once it begins to show up at the pump.

Today’s pumps typically deliver a gasoline mixture that is 10-percent ethanol, called E10, although so-called flex-fuel autos are designed to handle mixtures of up to E85. Since the EPA granted a partial waiver of a request to raise the ethanol level to 15 percent for gasoline, manufacturers of outdoor power equipment and myriad other parties have sought to roll back the ruling. The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, along with automakers and marine manufacturers, even recently filed a legal challenge to the EPA’s “Regulation to Mitigate Misfueling,” which the parties called weak and inadequate to protect consumers and avoid damage to their engines.

Of late, we’re seeing three approaches to dealing with the ethanol. Briggs and Stratton, which makes outdoor-gear engines and walk-behind and riding mowers, at the show today debuted its Advanced Formula Fuel Treatment & Stabilizer (pictured) for protecting against E10 gasoline. Besides the one-use packet, used for treating up to 1.25 gallons, it will come in 4-, 8-, 16-, and 32-ounce bottles. Pricing is still to be determined.

The company says its product keeps the ethanol in gasoline from separating and attracting moisture, among other benefits. This keeps harmful deposits from sticking to engine parts. The manufacturer claims that it keeps working for three years, though we don’t advise that you store gasoline in an engine you don’t use regularly.

Another company present at the show, B3C Fuel Solutions, sells Ethanol Shield, another gasoline additive the company says removes water, prevents separation, conditions rubber and plastic parts, and more.

At its booth, Kohler showed its Command Pro EFI engines, designed to accommodate ethanol blends up to E85. Don't expect the complexity of electronic fuel injection to make its way down to walk-behind mowers anytime soon. EFI, a representative explained, would cost more than the mower. Even with zero-turn-radius mowers, EFI will have to trickle down from commercial models.

A third approach to ethanol is to keep it out of your engine in the first place. This recent piece discussed Stihl Motomix, an ethanol-free gas/oil mixture for two-cycle engines. But as it turns out, Stihl’s product is only one of many, and others are more readily available—some for less. We’ll soon report on the many options available to homeowners who feel they’re making too many trips to the shop.

Ed Perratore

   

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