The Council hopes that with this report showing the volume of petroleum from slow, chronic sources, more research will be conducted about the impact of this type of pollution on the marine community. Based on existing research, the EPA is working with marine engine manufacturers to phase out the pollution-causing two-stroke engines within the next 10 years. Two-stroke engines are lightweight, inexpensive engines found in jet skis and small outboard motors, as well as dirt bikes and other low-power applications. Their simple design, however, produces pollution by emitting clouds of oily smoke, and by leaking fuel directly into the surrounding water.
The EPA's Dee North stated "The regulations will require that the manufacturers reduce the pollution from their new engines that they sell in the future by over 75 percent. Four-stroke engines are cleaner, quieter, and use about half the fuel. Although the initial cost for the consumer will be higher, improved fuel efficiency should help them recoup a significant amount of their cost over time." EPA regulations will affect only marine manufacturers; boat owners and boat dealers are not responsible for restricting the use or sale of vessels with two-stroke engines.
Recreational boats and jet skis with two-stroke engines are commonly used in coastal waters, which unfortunately are some of the most ecologically sensitive areas. As populations in coastal areas grow, so does the petroleum from human factors. In fact the coastline from Maine to Virginia is the source of more than 50% of the land-based oil contamination along the entire North American coastline. This stretch of land is home to several refineries, and dense populations that use a significant amount of energy.
Recommendations coming from the NAS report include:
The NAS report shows the significant impact that we, as individual boaters, have on the quality of our nation's waters. Although the EPA states, "Boat owners are in no way responsible for making modifications to their current engines to meet the standards," there are practices we can follow to help reduce pollution as much as possible. In addition to purchasing cleaner technology engines, EPA suggests boaters do the following:
Boaters and non-boaters can get involved in other ways as well. Each year, an estimated 200 million gallons of used motor oil is improperly disposed of by being dumped on the ground, tossed in the trash, and poured down storm sewers and drains. Properly disposing of oil would save 1.3 million barrels of oil per day (through recycling), and reduce harmful hydrocarbons and heavy metals in waterways. If you change your own oil, find a local recycling center by clicking here.
Community programs—such as "stenciling," where volunteers mark storm drains with warnings not to dump—help educate the public about the importance of clean water and how to achieve it. These programs provide hands-on involvement for individuals, families, and groups who want to protect their local water sources.
The National Academies of Science study was sponsored by the U.S. Minerals Management Service, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.W. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, American Petroleum Institute, and the National Ocean Industries Association.
For those interested in further research on this important topic, we provide the following resources: