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E-15 Ruling

The number one public enemy of the two-cycle engine is ethanol. So naturally, a recent decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve E-15 fuel, with 15 percent ethanol, serves as a well-justified source of concern for any golf course superintendent and their staff who frequently uses outdoor power equipment like weed whackers and leaf blowers.
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While the increased use of ethanol in gasoline may be beneficial for the environment, ethanol is detrimental to two-cycle engine equipment.

Currently, most gasoline available at the pump is E-10, which contains 10 percent ethanol. According to the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), more than 200 million pieces of outdoor power equipment have significant risk of operational failure or performance issues if owners fuel their equipment with E-15.

The affects of ethanol gas begin to occur when the gas is stored in power equipment for an extended period of time. The ethanol in gasoline attracts water from the atmosphere and the two bond together. This ethanol/water mixture separates from the gasoline in a process called ''phase separation.''

When starting a 2-cycle engine, the machine uses the ethanol/water that has separated from the gasoline and does not receive the lubrication that it needs. This can cause hard starting, erratic performance and immediate engine failure.

Ethanol is also a powerful solvent and when separation occurs, it often degrades rubber fuel lines and plastic components causing unnecessary maintenance problems, thus reducing the lifespan of equipment.

With increased ethanol levels available soon at the gas pump, likewise the risk to damage power equipment increases exponentially. In recent years, power equipment dealers have reported that ethanol is one of the top culprits for power equipment failure. Landscape contractors may find themselves having to repair and replace their two-cycle engine equipment more frequently, a process that can be very expensive.

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October 20, 2019, 8:07 pm PDT

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