Ethanol-free fuel available for isle boats
The additive in fuel has been damaging and costly, isle boaters claim
For the first time in nearly a year, non-ethanol gasoline will be available to Oahu and Big Island boat owners, who have pushed for an alternative to ethanol-blended fuel.
Aloha Petroleum has begun offering non-ethanol gasoline on the two islands -- the first time since a new law went into effect last April requiring that 85 percent of the gasoline sold in Hawaii be blended with ethanol, a fuel produced from crops such as corn and sugar cane.
Maui Oil Co./Lanai Oil Co. and Senter Petroleum Co. are the only other distributors of non-ethanol gasoline in the state, according to the state Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism. Maui Oil/Lanai Oil distributes the non-ethanol fuel only on Lanai, and Senter on Molokai.
Aloha will offer the non-ethanol fuel, called Aloha Classic Gasoline, to local marinas, but not to retail gas stations. Most automobiles built since 1980 suffer no harm from current 10 percent ethanol blends, the state says.
Boat owners have said that since the law took effect, damage from ethanol has been costly, particularly to repair the fiberglass tanks installed in many of the older boats. They also say ethanol has clogged fuel intakes and carburetors and has stalled boat engines.
Ethanol damage has cost Big Island commercial fisherman Michael Trask $150,000 in revenue since last summer when ethanol delaminated his fiberglass gas tank and destroyed the engine.
"It made me miss my entire fishing season," he said. "The boat is still not in the water and I'm still counting my losses. There was no warning to us about the effects of ethanol."
Maria Tome, a DBEDT energy engineer, said the state regulation was meant to provide some flexibility to marketers to supply non-ethanol fuel to local marinas.
The main problem is that ethanol, which is made with alcohol, absorbs water and moisture out of the air and destroys rubber and gasket materials in boat motors, said Ernie Choy, a long-time boat owner at Heeia-Kea Boat Harbor.
"The real scary part is so far no boater has been stranded out at sea from the effects of ethanol in the gas, but that's the greatest fear I have," he said.