Upfront: EPA’s E15 ruling raises concerns

By Steve Noe

On June 28, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued fuel pump labeling and other requirements for E15, which is gasoline blends containing more than 10- and up to 15-percent ethanol. According to the EPA, these requirements will help ensure that E15 is properly labeled and used once it enters the market.

However, the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) — which filed a joint petition with auto, marine, motorcycle, outdoor power equipment, personal watercraft and snowmobile groups in March 2011, asking the EPA to ensure the continued sale and availability of gasoline blends of no greater than 10-percent ethanol (E10) for the 400 million engine products used by tens of millions of people every day in the United States — begs to differ, issuing the following statement shortly after the EPA’s misfueling ruling was handed down.

“EPA’s decision to bring E15 on the market without requiring stations to carry the legacy fuel (E10) will unfortunately lead to misfueling,” said Kris Kiser, executive vice president of OPEI. “There are millions of off-road, small-engine equipment (lawn mowers, chain saws, motorcycles, snowmobiles, boats) and older cars on the market that are not designed to run on E15. Labeling is not enough. EPA, consistent with prior precedent, should ensure consumer choice by requiring the continued sale of E10 gasoline blends to avoid harming existing products or posing safety risks.”

The EPA ruling requires that a new label (pictured) must appear on fuel pumps that dispense E15. This label is supposed to help inform consumers about which vehicles can use E15. This label is also supposed to warn consumers against using E15 in passenger vehicles older than model year 2001, as well as all motorcycles, watercraft, and gasoline-powered equipment such as lawn mowers and chain saws.

However, I have serious doubts and concerns about the effectiveness of this new label. First, the EPA is assuming that consumers will notice the label at the pump, can read English, and will take the time to read and comprehend it before pumping gas into their vehicles or gas cans — all big assumptions. The label definitely draws your attention to the facts that a pump contains E15 and should be used only in the specified vehicles. However, it does an extremely poor job of warning consumers about when and why E15 should not be used — in small print I might add. The label is an extremely inadequate attempt to warn consumers about using E15 in outdoor power equipment, which the EPA conveniently lumped under “gasoline-powered equipment.” At the absolute bare minimum, the EPA should revise the warning label to include foreign language text, as well as graphics depicting the prohibited equipment. Simply stating that E15 “may cause damage” — without specifying that potential damage to both the user and the vehicle or equipment, in large print — is simply not enough. It is grossly misleading, irresponsible and unforgiveable. Shame on the EPA!

OPE Editor Steve Noe


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