Trump Wants to Kill Your Equipment
Trimmer, trimmer, whirling flight
With your razor string so bright
Why doth mortal fuels all try
To make your fearful power die?
— Ode to My Weed-Whacker
J. A., 2019
Every single year at around this time, all across America…
The good people of this republic drag their leaf blowers, wood chippers, mulching mowers, and chain saws out of their garages or sheds and put them to work.
The “gales of November,” to quote one of my favorite songs (can you name it?), bring down a clutter of leaves and branches…
And whatever dying trees summer couldn’t save for one more year inevitably come crashing to the ground in the fall as well.
So everywhere you look on the weekends nowadays, it’s blow, saw, chip, and do the final mowing and trimming of the year…
If they can get all those engines started, that is.
Over the last 12 years or so, that’s been getting harder to do each season — and no, it’s not your imagination…
Small engines these days really ARE harder to start, and they’re much more prone to failure than they used to be.
That’s mainly George W. Bush’s fault, too — and I’ll never forgive him…
But Trump’s not helping matters (more on this in a moment).
Of course, I’m talking about the costly and needless shift to ethanol-blend gasoline.
Under the auspices of reducing our dependence on foreign oil and cutting carbon emissions, neither of which it accomplished in any meaningful way…
Bush’s Energy Policy Act of 2005 was, in large part, a great big sloppy subsidy kiss to America’s corn farmers, via the boom in ethanol production it all but mandated.
The problem is, aside from decreasing horsepower and worsening gas mileage by up to 10% — plus making cars more expensive and complex to produce…
Ethanol blended gasoline is a straight-up small engine murderer.
The problem(s) with “deathanol” in small motors
If you’re putting ordinary pump gasoline in your leaf blower, weed-whacker, chain saw, pressure washer, generator, wood-chipper, log-splitter, lawnmower, or pretty much anything else powered by a small engine, chances are you’re killing it.
That’s because ethanol-blend fuels — 98% of America’s pump gas, in other words…
Can make the small engines that power these things fail, sometimes spectacularly.
Don’t believe me? Ask Consumer Reports. They said as much in March of 2013. So has almost every manufacturer of small engines.
Without getting too technical, suffice to say that it’s basically because of two factors:
1) Ethanol attracts water — It’s hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs water directly from the atmosphere. When ethanol-blend fuels sit in air-ventilated gas tanks (the type that feed most small engines), the water content can get high enough over time that it can cause poor running, corrosion, and lack of lubrication…
It can also foster bacteria growth in the fuel and intake systems, which can plug filters and further degrade the quality of the gas getting to your engine.
2) Ethanol destroys parts — Plastic and rubber O-rings, seals, gaskets, hoses, manifolds, filters, etc. in small engines can be softened, weakened, dissolved, made more brittle, or otherwise degraded over time by the highly solvent ethanol in your fuel…
The net effect of this can gum up carburetor jets, clog float bowls, stick chokes open (or shut), clog fuel injectors, and all sorts of other unsavory things.
Bottom line: Ethanol fuel sucks. But it especially sucks for small engines.
And with Trump initiating policy changes just last month that will accelerate the adoption of E15 fuel (15% ethanol) — mainly to ease the pain of corn farmers suffering from the trade war with China…
The small-engine failure crisis in America is only going to get worse.
Because most of the pump gas in the U.S. right now is E10 (10% ethanol) — which is already considered marginal for small engines.
E15 fuel, however, is proven to make small motors run hotter and fail sooner.
In fact, it’s illegal to use E15 fuels in anything but cars, according to the EPA…
And its use voids the warranty of almost every small motor on the market today.
So what happens to the $10.5 billion worth of small engines sold in this country every year when E15 totally replaces E10…
Which could soon occur, now that the president has thrown open the floodgates?
“Details, details,” a guy like Trump would say…
The rest of us, however, will say “Help!”
Yes, Virginia — there IS non-ethanol gasoline (for now)
At the start of this piece, I wrote a spoof ode to my weed-whacker, based on William Blake’s famous poem, The Tyger.
The reason I did this is because of what happened with this trimmer two weeks ago.
Mind you, I did not intend this incident to be an experiment or case study on the resiliency of non-ethanol gasoline…
But it turned out to be a great one anyway.
Long story short: I hate to contend with weeds of any kind. Pulling ‘em or trimming ‘em — I just can’t stand it. It’s a childhood thing (seriously)…
So over the 11 years I’ve lived in my current house, I’ve gotten weed management down to a system.
At my place these days, there’s not much I can’t either mow right over or spray into withering oblivion.
That means my $300 gas-powered weed-whacker has been sitting upright in the corner of my garage, untouched, for at least five years. Maybe even six or seven.
But the other day, just on a whim, I attempted to start it.
On the fourth pull, it lit up. Less than a minute later, after a few up-and-down rev cycles to blow it out, so to speak…
It was screaming powerfully at full rpm — and settling down to a perfect idle in between trimming passes. Just like brand new.
To be clear: I did nothing to it at all except flip on the choke and yank the cord…
I didn’t remove the spark plug and clean it, spray starting fluid in the air intake, or even add any fresh fuel.
And every one of my small gas engines is the same way — leaf-blowers, chain saws, generators, ATVs, outboard motors, and more…
They all start up and function flawlessly, despite neglect and lack of regular use.
That’s the awesome power of non-ethanol gasoline, which I’ve used religiously for a dozen years now.
Most folks don’t realize that you can actually still get this stuff.
In fact, you can buy it by the can at most major home-improvement stores…
But it’s ungodly expensive — like up to $30 a gallon or more, all told.
A better solution is to sniff out a station that sells ethanol-free fuel out of the pump.
Around 2% of the gas being sold in the U.S. is non-ethanol, so these “Holy Grail” stations do indeed exist.
To find one near you, dig around online, then start making some phone calls to verify that they’re still offering ethanol-free fuel.
I’ve had great luck with a site called pure-gas.org, but there may be others.
You might find that a lot of these places are marinas — because outboard motors are especially allergic to ethanol fuels.
The gas at marinas (airports, too) can be pricey, but nowhere near as expensive as off-the-shelf cans of fuel.
I was lucky — I actually found four different conventional gas stations (not marinas or airports) that sell non-ethanol fuel within a one-hour drive of my house.
On average, the pump prices at these are only around 30 to 50 cents more per gallon than regular fuel.
Hopefully, you’ll have similar luck with your own searching.
At the beginning of every season now, I fill six airtight five-gallon cans with mid-octane ethanol-free fuel.
Whatever I have left come wintertime, I dump into my truck and enjoy the better mileage I get.
If you do likewise, I promise you’ll get longer life and much better starting and performance out of your small engines…
If they’re not already too damaged by ethanol gas.
And one last thing: Don’t get me wrong…
I believe the short-term pain of our trade war with China is a necessary evil — and I support Trump’s stance on it, for the most part.
But I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts that when it’s over, he’s not going to roll back the Bush-era “deathanol” mandate that has plagued America for nigh on 15 years.
I hope he will, because the whole thing is a racket and a boondoggle…
I’m not going to hold my breath, though.
Freedoms Editor, Whiskey & Gunpowder