American Ethanol Race Team Owner Responds to BoatUS Survey

Don Onken is the founder/president of Lightning Performance Group and owner of the 51’ Mystic catamaran, American Ethanol, that ran 204 mph for the second straight year at the 2018 Lake of the Ozarks Shootout last August.

In September, BoatUS ran the results from a member survey that said, “Boaters Have Little Love for Ethanol, 83 Percent Would Choose E0 if available.” The article appeared on many media outlets including the Lake Expo website, which covers the LOTO Shootout.

Onken decided to write a reply to the article. Following is his letter.

I am responding to a September 21 piece that ran on the Lake Expo website taken from a BoatUS survey, Survey: Boaters Have Little Love for Ethanol, 83 Percent Would Choose E0 if Available. I have been involved in boating for over 40 years, and the Lake of the Ozarks has become my family’s home away from home. We have had the great honor of earning the Top Gun crown at the LOTO Shootout for the past four years in a row, and we have been using a high-ethanol blend that entire time. The recently published survey was clearly designed to paint a negative picture of ethanol among boaters, so I wanted to make a few points about the role of ethanol in the boating community.

Gasoline blended with 10 percent ethanol (E10) makes up the majority of the nation’s gasoline supply. E10 is approved for use in marine engines and has been warrantied for use in boats for nearly two decades. Beyond being perfectly suitable for your boat, ethanol is a renewable biofuel that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and replaces harmful chemicals in gasoline that have been linked to groundwater contamination and serious health issues. E10 is less expensive than E0 and it burns cleaner, so boaters who want to save money while using an environmentally-friendlier fuel can absolutely do so with E10.

I often see the topic of “misfuelling” come up as a reason for boaters’ opposition to ethanol, yet there never seem to be any reported cases of misfuelling actually taking place. Certainly, if you own a car, you need to know whether your vehicle requires premium gasoline or needs to run on diesel fuel. Similarly, as a boater you need to know which fuel is right for your boat, and a 2017 survey indicates overwhelmingly that boaters have no issue selecting the right fuel at the pump. As someone who has been boating for decades, I know that proper care and maintenance according to your boat’s owner’s manual is of the utmost importance and being educated on which fuels are approved for your boat is a key component of that.

Higher ethanol blends like E15 are becoming more widely available at gas stations across the country because it is a higher-octane fuel that enhances engine performance for motorists while also costing less money than E10. The bottom line is, E15 is not currently approved for use in boat engines, but E10 is and has been for years, and E10 is always offered at any location that carries E15. Any responsible driver or boater should know which fuel works for their circumstances and be free to choose the option that meets their needs.

~Don Onken