Your Mower Will Sputter and Die

I wrote a piece for today’s Burlington Free Press noting that ethanol free gas looks like it will be a thing of the past.

This Essex, Vermont service station sells ethanol-free gas, for now. Photo by Ryan Mercer, Burlington Free Press.

Sounds esoteric, but this might affect you more than you think.

 Ethanol, usually derived from corn, is added to gasoline. The goal is to use something less carbon intensive than pure petroleum, which is a greenhouse gas linked to global warming.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency is mandating more and more ethanol in gasoline. Canada is too. The upshot is ethanol-free gas is getting harder to harder to find, and will soon be impossible to locate.

So what’s the problem? If we can make gasoline that is a little less harmful to the environment, go for it, right?

Not so fast. The people that use and repair all kinds of small engines for things like lawn mowers, chain saws, some ATVs, outboard motors on boats and all kinds of other things say ethanol added to gas fouls carberators and other parts in these small engines, meaning they have to get frequent and expensive repairs.

People report their equipment, like mowers, ended up running rough, sputtering and coming to a gasping stop when ethanol/gas mixes are used.

Needless to say, landscapers, boaters, and others who use small engines are not happy. Some people blame the ethanol lobby, the big corn and seed conglomerates for forcing this down our throats. Some critics say that ethanol doesn’t really reduce greenhouse gases appreciatively. I couldn’t find any definitive studies on this.

This whole mess looks like one of those deals where laws got ahead of technology. I’m sure people are working on making small engines and other equipment that will run just fine on ethanol-laced gas, but we’re not there yet.

The consensus among the small engine repair people is there is nothing we can do about this, except try not to let the gas sit in the tank for long periods of time.

If you’re using gas with ethanol, and you probably are, let the engine on your small equipment run until you are complete out of gas if you’re not going to use the thing within the next couple of weeks. That should help a bit.

2 Responses to “Your Mower Will Sputter and Die”

  1. montpelier28 Says:

    What about Canada? I read somewhere some of the border towns can get non ethanol gas from there. This was a couple months back.

  2. mattalltrades Says:

    Most Vermont suppliers who were getting non-ethanol gas were getting it from Canada, but my understanding is that supply is drying up as Canada is going to pro-ethanol regulations, too

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