E15: Coming Soon to a Pump Near You

The outdoor power equipment industry has been dealt another blow in the battle against the 15 percent ethanol blend fuel E15: the EPA has given approval for retailers to begin selling the biofuel. Developed as part of the effort to reduce the dependence on foreign oil by using ethanol derived from corn, the fuel, which contains 5 percent more ethanol than current gas on the market, is only meant for cars manufactured after 2001, and can cause significant damage to earlier models, as well as marine engines, non-road vehicles and outdoor power equipment. The concern is not with the fuel itself, but the repercussions of consumers mistakenly choosing the wrong blend at the pump. Now, considering how much damage can be caused by selecting the incorrect blend, we should assume that government agencies will be launching a nationwide campaign to assure that the potential hazards have been thoroughly explained to consumers, right? The EPA’s proposed method of educating America’s drivers on the dangers of misfueling: a small sticker plastered on the gas pump. That seems sufficient, right? I mean, let’s be honest, before filling up on your way to a job site you take a moment to carefully read through all of the scattered labels plastered on the pump to make sure you are not be filling up with a new fuel that could cause catastrophic damage to your truck or equipment, don’t you? Sure. PS, using E15 could void your vehicle’s warranty, as well. So, when the engine seizes in my 85-year-old grandma’s Buick because she didn’t pull out her reading glasses when she stopped for gas, it’s her problem.

Kris Kiser, president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI), said, “EPA purports to educate tens of millions of Americans using hundreds of millions of engine products, asserting it will educate these users with a 3-inch-by-3-inch pump label. It’s frighteningly inadequate.”

There are still other issues, including pending litigation and opposition in Washington, that have to be overcome before E15 makes it to your local gas station, but the Obama Administration has set a goal to have the fuel at 10,000 pumps within the next five years. In the meantime, I want to know how you feel about E15. Shoot me an email with your thoughts, and you may see it in an upcoming issue.

Katie Meyers