Where I DO lack confidence is in my motor-repair skills. I know the difference between a carburetor and a fuel injector, but when it comes to serious issues, you don't want me anywhere near your outboard with a wrench in my hands.
One angler who's at the opposite end of the spectrum from me in that regard is Hank Johnston, aka the Boat Doctor. Hank could probably take a motor apart and put it back together blindfolded while he's sleeping.
The man knows outboards.
That's why it's particularly disturbing to hear Hank discuss ethanol and the impact it has on outboard motors. In this era of ethanol-mixed fuel, you can't just fill up your tank and use your boat like you normally would. You have to take precautions, or else you'll be paying a visit to Hank or one of his cohorts.
Hank gives the nuts and bolts of protecting yourself from ethanol-related problems in his column in this issue, and wise anglers will heed his warnings. All large chains sell ethanol-mixed fuel now, so it's challenging and sometimes impossible to use ethanol-free fuel. I know I've resigned myself to having to put ethanol in my boat's tank.
Ethanol was initially proposed as a "green" fuel, a magical substance that would sever our dependence on foreign oil and allow the environment to begin to heal.
But in reality, it's been a nightmare. Since ethanol rapidly degrades, it can't be pushed through pipelines and has to be trucked, which is more expensive. It also is less efficient as a fuel.
On the economic side, farmers from sea to shining sea have planted corn to feed the ethanol industry, and high tariffs on imported ethanol have ensured American farmers get extremely high prices on their grain. So consumers are paying more not only for fuel but also for commodities.
In addition to that, many marginal farmlands — usually wetlands — are being drained and planted so farmers can grow more corn and sell it at those higher prices. That will have detrimental long-term impacts on duck populations.
And the whole thing is a hoax.
Al Gore, America's Nobel Prize-winning uber-environmentalist, admitted in a European address in November that ethanol is a sham.
"First-generation ethanol I think was a mistake," Reuters quoted Gore as saying. "The energy conversion ratios are at best very small."
But how can that be? Wasn't Gore ethanol's greatest champion at one point?
Yes, but that's only because he was running for president.
"I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president," Gore said.
But the government has never made a mistake it didn't want to compound, so at the end of last year, the EPA approved increasing ethanol content in gasoline from 10 percent to 15 percent.
That'll be good for business — Hank Johnston's.