The End of Days: How Ethanol will devastate lawn care in America

A recent announcement by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency mandates an increase to over 18 billion gallons of renewable fuels in the US in 2016.

For those of you not sure exactly how “renewable fuels” effects you, let me break it down.

Renewable fuels are fuels that contain combustible organic additives like Ethanol (which is ethyl alcohol); the same type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages.

It’s used as an additive to gasoline to basically cut the fuel like a bartender waters down whiskey. It’s supposed to have environmentally friendly results as well (which are highly suspect). But more to the point, it’s required by law.

But one of the effects of Ethanol is that its hydrophilic, which means it’s water loving.

When water floats around in your gasoline, ethanol sidles right on up to it and gives it a big, old, slobbery smooch, then it grabs a hold and hangs on for dear life!

This, in and of itself is not a bad thing. Water don’t burn so well! So when a combustible material like alcohol bonds to it, that is a good thing. And just like Metamucil in your Mueslix, that water gets a case of the “Montezumas” and it passes right on through the old combustion system. Lickity split!

The problem here is the quantity of ethanol in the gas. There’s too much. (See: Ethanol is the Devil.) They want more. And that has the lawn care equipment industry in a bit of a tizzy.

A recent article from Green Industry reported…

According to a story by ABC News, the higher re-forecast simply coincides with the overall increase in fuel demand in the U.S. as of late. Thus, the increase in renewable fuels doesn’t mean that consumers will begin seeing a higher percentage of ethanol in their fuel.

Since we’re telling tales, I’ve got one of my own…

One day, the federal government announces that due to global warming concerns, scientists have discovered that the temperature of the planet must be lowered. And given how big and fat and gluttonous Americans are, it has been determined that the fastest way to impact the temperature of the atmosphere is ice. So, a law is passed requiring 8.3 gazillion ice cubes (cubed or crushed) to be served in the private sector over a 48 month period.

I know the premise is stupid. Remember “Duck and cover?” Yeah, that would’ve worked.

So all the restaurant managers and concession stand owners and the lot all get together and try to plan this thing out. But there’s really no way to determine how many drinks will be sold or consumed over the next two years.

Experts are paid big money to make sense of all of it. Statistical findings are published based on all kinds of criteria like meltage ratios and chemical decomposition. PH levels and surface cohesion vs. humidity “stuff” but as the deadline looms ever closer, they start to get nervous.

There’s just no way to predict how many more drinks would have to be sold to meet the federal requirements! But if you know you’re going to get the bejezus fined out of you then the answer suddenly becomes pretty clear.

They’re going to do the same thing the fuel industry is going to do.

They’re going to start cramming more ice into every drink they serve, because it’s better to be safe than sorry and “I just bought a boat! I’ll be kicked in the kazoo if I’m getting fined!”

You heard it here first, kids. There will ultimately be an increase in ethanol content. Truth be told, we’ve known it was coming for some time now.

And from a repair standpoint, there couldn’t be better news. Machines are going to go belly up in record time and we’ll just keep on cleaning those carburetors and installing those overhaul kits while consumers continue to fill their tanks with ethanol rich fuel.

Sure, we’ll do our best to educate our customers on the hazards of
high ethanol content and they’ll keep staring wide eyed and nodding their heads.

But I don’t think it will change anything.

I just don’t see folks getting so frustrated that they stop buying those drinks. As long as “out of sight-out of mind” is the rule of the day, they’ll just keep plodding along.

Never underestimate the power of apathy. And we are nothing, if not adaptable.

If I’m wrong…well I’ll just break out the old kazoo and let the kicking commence.

But if I’m right… and I think I am…and so does the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute; then we’re going to see an already frustrating and expensive trend get a whole lot worse. 18 billion gallons worse.

See, the manufacturers know first hand the effects of ethanol on their equipment. They’ve been dealing with it for years and have adjusted warranty criteria to reflect what they know.

Translated: your warranty won’t cover the damage that’s coming from the fuel you will most likely use.

But here’s where the real frustration comes in. The same Federal Government who is mandating this increase in renewable fuels has yet to:

1) Acknowledge the effects it has on small engines

2) Provide factual and current education on the effects of Ethanol on small engines.

And why is this?

My guess is that to do so would mean acknowledging the fact that the only fuel available violates warranty agreements on virtually all small engines manufactured and/or sold in the U.S. today.

Green Industry Pros went on to state…

Surveys conducted in April and May with consumers, show nearly three quarters of Americans say they are not at all sure if it’s legal or illegal to put high-level ethanol gas (i.e., anything higher than 10% ethanol) into small engine products.”

snowconeLet’s go back to the ice for a second. For the last 48 months,everyone has been enjoying their coffee and soda pop and whiskey snow cones like good tax payers. But something previously unanticipated has come up! It appears that increased water consumption is a real issue now. So, they crank up the printer and out comes another mandate.

From now on, all ice must contain no less than 8% re-processed, filtered gray water. That’s bath water folks. Used.


Which begs the question…how much poop in your food are you OK with? A little? A real little? A super tiny little piece of the poo, just so tiny and so small and he won’t bother no one cuz he’s just so widdle?

Is that small enough for you to swallow?

I’m sure the answer to that question is “no”.

So, what’s the alternative?

Fortunately there is now a growing selection of Ethanol Free fuel products on the market now. We recommend using something like Oregons VP brand ethanol free fuel in a can. It’s available for two and four cycle engines, has an extended shelf life and can be found at many locations.

Recently, I’ve seen more and more filling stations who have recognized the demand for ethanol free fuel and are addressing the issue on their own by providing it at the pump. And thankfully the trend is growing.

But what we’ve got here is a growing demand for a product that is just a little outside of the normal fare. And what does that normally mean? Price gouging.

I fear that pretty soon we’re going to see the cost of taking proactive steps to avoid mechanical problems becoming less than cost effective. And how can I say that? Because we (that’s you, me and the rest of the herd) are reactive rather than proactive.

Disagree? Did you winterize your machines?

Consumers unaware of the effects of ethanol are already going outHEADSTONE in droves to replace their dead machines, grumbling all the while because they were sold a “piece of junk”. And the truth is that the machine they’ve been feeding poison to was fine when they bought it.

Finally, the manufacturers of quality equipment will become overwhelmed by the challenge of keeping costs down while trying to compete with an industry that is already cranking out substandard (I mean “affordable”) machines like fly swatters at a flea market.

Because it will still be cheaper than paying for a tune up on your mower or chainsaw or trimmer…every year.

More to come…


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Bill Brown

Bill is the head of content creation for the LawnMowerPros Blog and DIY section. He’s been in the Outdoor Power Equipment Industry for years and he’s still learning new things everyday. You can often find him creating featured articles, DIY guides, videos, graphics and much more.