Small engine maker Briggs & Stratton Co. has introduced a fuel additive that it says will help prevent problems in gasoline engines using ethanol.
Petroleum companies use a 10 percent blend of ethanol to comply with federal renewable fuels standards.
Briggs & Stratton officials said ethanol attracts moisture, which creates problems in lawn mowers, generators and other gas-powered equipment. The company's additive displaces water and prevents ethanol from gumming up fuel systems, said Scott Wesenberg, manager of Briggs' fuel systems group. The Milwaukee-based company is the world's largest manufacturer of small gasoline engines.
Wesenberg told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that ethanol leaves residues that "never stick in a nice place."
But ethanol supporters say most problems come from people not maintaining their equipment properly and doing things like leaving the cap off a gasoline can.
"We call these 'housekeeping issues,'" said Kristy Moore, vice president of technical services for the Renewable Fuels Association. "If someone doesn't take care of equipment to keep water out of the fuel, they're going to have a hard time starting that engine."
Josh Morby, executive director of the Wisconsin Bio Industry Alliance, which represents ethanol producers, said engine makers have exaggerated problems caused by ethanol because renewable fuel standards could force them to design engines that cost more and are less lucrative.
"We sat across the table from (Briggs) executives a couple of years ago and they said, 'If you guys never made another gallon of ethanol, it wouldn't be too soon for us,'" Morby said.
Briggs & Stratton sells its additive through retailers that carry its outdoor power equipment, including Home Depot and Walmart. A container that treats up to 40 gallons of gas costs $7. It says it is the first engine maker to develop its own fuel additive, but others on the market also displace water and help keep gasoline fresh in storage.
The Briggs & Stratton additive is designed to work with 10 percent ethanol, not the 15 percent blend known as E15. The company was among those that went to court in failed attempts to block implementation of E15. It has tested isobutanol, another biofuel, as an E15 alternative.
"We are fully supportive of more biofuels coming into the industry. It's just that we don't think ethanol, per se, is necessarily the best one," Briggs spokeswoman Laura Timm said.