E15 Update

The outdoor power equipment industry suffered another blow in its battle against the wide release of E15 ethanol when a federal appeals court refused to reconsider a decision to throw out a lawsuit challenging an Environmental Protection Agency rule that allows higher concentrations of ethanol in gasoline. Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute, has argued that the EPA made a hasty decision to approve E15, and the proposed 3-square-inch label for gas pumps will be inadequate in preventing misfueling, which could cause significant damage to power equipment and vehicle engines.

The court’s reasoning in the ruling was that OPEI could not show specific harm caused by E15. Kiser said, “It is regrettable that the court is insisting to see personal or economic injury before they can take action. Our interest is to protect the consumer; we’re trying to prevent the harm from happening in the first place.”

A study conducted by the Coordinating Research Council, a group created and supported by the oil and auto industries, may provide undeniable evidence that misfueling could result in significant damage to equipment and vehicles. The study found gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol could cause critical fuel components in cars to break down. According to the American Petroleum Institute (API), the results show that the EPA acted irresponsibly in approving the fuel for use since the EPA knew vehicle testing was ongoing, but chose not to wait for the results before approving the fuel for use. API plans to provide the study to EPA and the public, and is strongly considering taking the ruling affirming EPA’s approval of the fuel to the Supreme Court.

While the war wages on in the federal courts, at least one state has taken a stand against the sale of E15. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection is working on a bill that would ban the gasoline with more than 10 percent ethanol in Maine if at least two other New England states go along with the prohibition. However, a state ban would still put Maine at odds with the federal government’s renewable fuels requirement and could raise gas prices in the state significantly.

There is obviously no cut and dry solution to the ethanol conundrum, but considering the potential for damage and the resulting cost for consumers, it’s an issue that deserves more research. We’ll continue to keep you updated on the status on E15 in upcoming issues.

Katie Meyers