‘Pink Out’ Ethanol Charity a Mixed Brew

gas cap with warningNext Monday marks the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM), during which many companies have pledged to donate a portion of profits for breast-cancer research. Among these organizations is Growth Energy, the advocacy group behind the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2011 decision to allow more ethanol into fuel sold at pumps across America. Growth Energy has partnered with Sheetz, Minnoco, Protec and Murphy USA for its annual Pink Out campaign, which covers nozzles for E15, gasoline with 15% ethanol, in pink to indicate they would donate 2 cents for every gallon sold.

The BCAM campaign generates billions overall for this vital cause. And if you’re fueling up a car of the year 2001 or later, Growth Energy’s program sounds reasonable. You might already be fueling up with E15 now and then, and you probably won’t notice the slight reduction in mileage from using a higher percentage of biofuel. But in its pitch for the Pink Out program, Growth Energy isn’t giving you the whole story. The organization claims that burning gasoline harms the environment and releases harmful gases, though the main selling point for ethanol, reduced carbon-dioxide emissions, has not stood up to scrutiny.

Outdoor gear at risk
Gassing up your vehicle is one thing; the latest fuel systems should be able to handle it. For anyone filling up a gas can for use in outdoor power equipment, however, it’s another matter. Gasoline in general can cause engine trouble if left sitting for long periods. Yet the ethanol mixed in makes engines run hotter, stiffens rubber and plastic parts, and attracts water, which at the very least hinders starting.

Manufacturers accept that their customers will use gas with 10% ethanol, E10, which is found across the country. If you use E15 in outdoor power equipment and hit trouble, though, any repairs won’t be covered by your products’ warranties—which is why you’ll see plentiful warnings to use gasoline with no more than 10% ethanol. (You’ll need them; the EPA’s pump label is not prominent.) Turning a gas nozzle pink doesn’t make it a win-win on your end, but you won’t hear that from Growth Energy or other groups running similar campaigns.

Purchases that truly help cancer research are unassailable. But if you’re going to fuel up outdoor gear, your boat or anything else with an engine smaller than an car’s, steer clear of E15 fuel. Use a list like this one from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation to “shop pink” every October. Or donate year-round, no strings attached.

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Deere Refines, Expands Residential Rider Line

John DeereZTrak Z375R riderLook for a John Deere zero-turn rider at a dealer next spring, and you’ll see a bevy of new models. The manufacturer of everything from residential lawn tractors and riders to high-end construction, agriculture and forestry equipment will add several models to its line of Residential ZTrak Zero-Turn Mowers.

The ZTrak line will remain split among three segments, the entry-point E, mid-range M and higher-end R (shown above), with the Z500R models bordering on commercial, the realm often dubbed “prosumer.” Common to the selection of Z300 and Z500 machines, whichever the segment, are Accel Deep stamped decks. For certain models, you’ll get more choice in deck sizes, up to 62 inches.

Easy mode switching
An option on some of these is a feature Deere released last year, called MulchControl. Shown below, it uses a lever, mounted on top of the deck, that lets you use a single blade for either mulching or side-discharging grass clippings. Turn the lever to one position, and it closes the side-discharge baffle to keep clippings whirling around. In the other, it opens the baffle to let those clippings fly. Fewer riding-mower users bag their clippings, but those who do will need a separate bagging kit.

Other improvements to the line, as we saw at GIE+Expo last week, are better-contoured lever-steer controls, a deck lift you can operate with your foot, more comfortable high-back seating options and beefier tires. You can keep track of fuel levels, maintenance needs and more using the John Deere Mower Plus smartphone app, which also works with other brands and models.

John Deere residential decks, already commendable, have improved further over the past few years, and Deere machines are known for their durability. Full specs and pricing won’t go public till early 2017, but if you’re looking for a zero-turn rider and want to avoid budget models, these look worth waiting for.

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