Elevating Ethanol Education

OPEI seeks to take Look Before You Pump campaign to next level with dealer support

By Kris Kiser

It’s been three years since the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) launched its consumer education and protection campaign, Look Before You Pump, and filmed its public service announcements in his dealership in Gaithersburg, Md., but dealer Robert Chisholm is still an avid supporter of the campaign.

cling-sticker-FINAL.Displays with education materials are on the counters permanently at Gaithersburg Rental Center, and Chisholm says he uses the materials every day to talk with consumers about properly fueling their outdoor power equipment.

“Every time we sell something, we tell people about the dangers of high-ethanol fuel,” says Chisholm. “We use every opportunity to educate them about the fuel they should use.”

That education is definitely needed. A national online poll conducted earlier this year for OPEI by Harris Poll found that almost two-thirds (64 percent) of American adults age 18 or older, who own outdoor power equipment, say they either are not sure (42 percent) or do not pay any attention (22 percent) to what type of fuel they are using. In 2015, almost half (45 percent) were not sure what type of fuel they used and one in five (20 percent) did not pay any attention to the type of fuel used.

The poll, conducted in March 2016, shows 66 percent of Americans will use the least-expensive grade of gasoline whenever possible versus 63 percent in 2015 and 71 percent in 2013. In addition, 60 percent of Americans assume that any gas that is sold at a gas station must be safe for all of their vehicles or power equipment versus 57 percent in 2015 and 64 percent in 2013.

The research continues to prove that Americans are still unaware of the damage that can occur to their outdoor power equipment as a result of misfueling. With 100 million legacy outdoor power equipment products in homeowners’ garages, maintenance sheds and facilities across America, the scope of this issue is massive and shows that much more education is needed.

OPEI, along with the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), has written to Congress urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enhance and strengthen consumer education and outreach initiatives related to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). We expect some effort will be made along these lines in the lame duck session after the general, presidential election in November.

Dealers continue to educate consumers, use campaign materials

In the meantime, the industry has come together around this campaign, early. Dealers, manufacturers, the media, OPEI and other industry partners — the NMMA, the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association and others — consistently work together to educate the public about proper fueling.

Chisholm says another issue is that customers continue to use gas that is more than 30 days old in their outdoor power equipment. “We also see the same old problems with stale gas and rotten fuel lines,” says Chisholm. “They are putting in old gas, and they are letting it decompose.”

Because most fuel today contains ethanol, and ethanol phase-separates over time in fuel, manufacturers recommend that customers not use fuel that is more than 30 days old, and not use greater than 10-percent-ethanol gasoline. In some cases, Chisholm says consumers never empty their gas tanks out before putting their mowers into storage for the winter and leave gas to sit in their tanks for several months. Others take the gas out, but use an old fuel can in the garage to store it. Then, they use the old fuel to power up their equipment in the springtime. His experience is mirrored by other dealers, too.

Brian McGavic of McGavic Outdoor Power in Noblesville, Ind., echoes Chisholm’s concerns about customers and misfueling. He keeps examples of carburetors on the counter to show customers “ethanol contamination.” While he has not availed himself of the “Look Before You Pump” campaign, he is eager to check it out.

Greg Ahira of Fullspeed Technology Inc. in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, expresses similar concerns about customer misfueling. “Misfueling has serious consequences, including unnecessary servicing costs and premature engine failure,” he says. “These engines can fail to start or wear out prematurely if more than 10-percent ethanol is in the gas mixture. Running an incorrect ethanol-blended fuel mixture (E10 or higher) can also void the manufacturer’s warranty.”

Ahira uses the campaign’s fact sheets and website (www.LookBeforeYouPump.com) to educate customers and others. “The big challenge is that it’s pretty easy to misfuel by using an ethanol-blended fuel, which is not made for your engine,” says Ahira. “It can be really frustrating when you can’t start your outdoor power equipment or damage your engine because of this.”

OPEI_Do you Look Before You Pump_v2 copyEthanol education portal provides resources 24/7

To help the industry better educate consumers and employees about ethanol issues, OPEI set up an online education resource center at TinyURL.com/EthanolEducation. More than 700 people have signed up to download “Look Before You Pump” education materials, most for free.

In a 2015 survey, 72 percent of the people signed up were using the campaign materials to educate new customers buying new equipment, and 64 percent were using the materials to educate customers bringing equipment into the shop for repair.

One respondent said, “We really love what you guys are doing. We’ve found that most people have no clue about the fuel they put in their equipment. It’s something every dealer or service center should do for their customers.”

The most popular downloads were campaign logos, hang tags, counter posters, social media toolkits, information (rack) cards, infographics, wall posters, and window cling stickers.

More than 70.5 percent of respondents found the campaign messages effective. Interestingly, about half of the respondents were also using the campaign materials to educate their employees. Thirty-six percent were also using the materials to educate themselves.

Company blogs and websites were also benefiting from the materials. Thirty-two percent of survey respondents were using the materials as part of promoting their company’s blog, social media or website.

Another dealer remarked, “We see problems with fueling every day and educate people that either they should buy non-ethanol fuel or use a stabilizer engineered for fuel containing ethanol.”

Ways you can use campaign materials

  1. Download the Dealer Fact Sheet. Print it out and post it on your employee break room wall or near the cash register where people check out.
  2. Use the “Look Before You Pump” logo in your employee newsletter, as well as on customer marketing materials, your website and your social media channels. If posting the logo online, include a link to www.LookBeforeYouPump.com and use the hashtag #LookB4UPump.
  3. Download, print, and display the counter poster and accompanying information card (“rack card”) near outdoor power equipment displays, so people connect the message with small-engine equipment.
  4. Download and print the information cards (“rack cards”) to give to customers purchasing new outdoor power equipment.
  5. Share a blog post about the “Look Before You Pump” campaign with consumers through your company website, blog or Facebook page. The copy is available for free download as an MS Word file and written to speak directly to consumers.
  6. Download and share an infographic about the campaign on your business Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn feeds. Use the #LookB4UPump hashtag.
  7. Contact radio or television stations in your community about using the public service announcements for the campaign. You can download the files for free from the portal.
    Note: Some of the materials can be customized with your logo, printed, and shipped to you for a fee. All electronic downloads are free.

Additional information

For more information about the campaign, go to www.LookBeforeYouPump.com.

To use the online education and resource center, go to TinyURL.com/EthanolEducation. Register with a simple username, password and email address to access the free materials.

Look Before You Pump partners

  • National Association of Landscape Professionals
  • National Hispanic Landscape Alliance
  • National Marine Manufacturers Association
  • International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association
  • Equipment & Engine Training Council
  • Equipment Dealers Association — formerly North American Equipment Dealers Association (NAEDA)

1606_OPE_CS_OPEI Ethanol Education2_author-Kris KiserKris Kiser is the president and CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI). OPEI is an international trade association representing more than 100 power equipment, engine and utility vehicle manufacturers and suppliers. OPEI is the advocacy voice of the industry, and a recognized Standards Development Organization for the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and active internationally through the International Standards Organization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) in the development of safety and performance standards. OPEI is managing partner of the Green Industry & Equipment Expo (GIE+EXPO), the industry’s annual international trade show, and the creative force behind the environmental education program, TurfMutt.com. OPEI-Canada represents members on a host of issues, including recycling, emissions and other regulatory developments across the Canadian provinces. For more information, visit http://opei.org.