Snowmobilers say ethanol gasoline hurts their engines

Published: Jan. 8, 2018 at 4:10 PM EST
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The cold and snowy weather has the state's network of snowmobile trails is buzzing, but riders say ethanol continues to damage their engines.

"We had some real early snow and even before that we had really cold weather which started to freeze the ground up," says Matt Tetreault, trails administrator for the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers.

That's a perfect combination, according to Tetreault. On Monday, 30 miles of trails in Berlin and Barre were perfectly groomed for a VIP rider -- Congressman Peter Welch.

"I wish every Vermonter could have had the opportunity to do this morning what I did, which is to get out in the deep pockets of rural Vermont, places that you just don't see from the road and to enjoy the extraordinary beauty," Welch, D-Vt., said.

Welch is promising to continue efforts to eliminate ethanol from gasoline. The federal government requires gas to contain 10 percent ethanol. Corn-based ethanol advocates say it makes for cleaner fuel -- but Welch and others say it does more harm than good.

"It does a lot of damage to our small engines, including our snow machines that are small engines. There's a lot of contamination that goes in to those engines," Welch said.

Mike Beaudet owns Gilles Sales & Service in East Montpelier. He said the ethanol in gas shortens the lifespan of small engines.

"It cleans the systems and it brings all of the garbage that's been collecting and runs it through the engines," he said.

Welch said it takes too much energy to make ethanol, and there are environmental consequences -- like over-planting of corn. It's also driven up the cost of food for humans and livestock.

"It's turned out to be a well-intended flop," Welch said.

Congress has kept the 10 percent mandate from rising to 15 percent. And a fifty-five-cent-per-gallon subsidy has been eliminated, as have tariff protections on foreign ethanol. Welch says he hopes to eliminate the mandate altogether -- but he's been working on for years.