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Before you start that snow blower, read this

Man using snowblower
Jill Wellington
Lots of snow? Fire up the old snowblower - with fresh gas

Some people who left gasoline in their snow blower last winter, and fired it up without refueling this winter, are finding out that was a mistake.

Almost all gasoline sold in Michigan has 10% ethanol in it. That gas, called E-10, destabilizes after a month. So firing up a small engine with old gas can damage the engine. 

Kris Kiser is president of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute. He says people should drain the old gas and replace it with new.

Or, he says, use gasoline with no ethanol in it.  Stores like Lowe's and Home Depot sell quart containers of that fuel, for a hefty price.  Or you can buy it for less at a gas station.

The problem is, most stations in Michigan don't sell any E-0.

"It's very hard to find," Kiser acknowledges. " Cities that have a lot of water around them, marinas and that sort of thing, you'll typically find an E-0 station."

Kiser says another problem can arise when people think they're buying E-10, but it's actually E-11, E-12, or E-13, "which the machines are not designed for."

He says the blending process is an inexact process at best, so fuel delivery trucks may dispense a higher blend of ethanol to the first gas stations on their route.

Small engine manufacturers are worried that the federal government may allow up to 15% ethanol into the marketplace, which could wreak havoc on boat, lawn mower, snow blower and other small outdoor equipment engines if inadvertently used.

Kiser says Congress needs to revisit the Renewable Fuels Act, which mandates higher and higher amounts of ethanol every year in the nation's gasoline supply.

The Environmental Protection Agency lowered the mandate for 2014, but Kiser says that was just a temporary move.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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