Upfront: OPEI seeking your help on ethanol education front

Awareness and knowledge of how to use high-ethanol fuel blends remains relatively unchanged among Americans age 18 and older, and price — not fuel-pump warning labels — continues to drive their decisions at the pump, according to a national poll conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) March 11-15, 2016. That’s why OPEI, which commissioned Harris Poll to conduct similar polls leading to similar results in 2013 and 2015, is seeking your help in educating consumers through its Look Before You Pump campaign (see the cover story on page 14). That’s also why we made ethanol the main focus of this issue of OPE.

Out of the 2,023 Americans age 18 and older who were surveyed in March 2016, nearly two out of three (64 percent) 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, 45 percent of the 2,015 Americans surveyed from the same demographic 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.

And according to most engine manufacturers, which should come as no surprise to you based on your firsthand service experience, gasoline containing greater than 10-percent ethanol (E10) can damage or destroy small engines in lawn mowers, chain saws, generators and other outdoor power equipment, as well as in utility vehicles, motorcycles, snowmobiles and boats. Yet, the 2016 poll revealed that 66 percent of Americans use the least-expensive grade of gasoline whenever possible (versus 63 percent in 2015 and 71 percent of the 2,040 Americans age 18 and older who were surveyed in 2013). The 2016 poll also showed that 60 percent of Americans assume that any gas 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). By federal law, it is illegal to use those higher-ethanol fuel blends in outdoor power equipment.

“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,” said Kris Kiser, president and CEO of OPEI. “There are 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.”

According to the 2016 poll, while 85 percent of Americans understand gasoline contains ethanol, price is the overriding factor. Among those who drive and buy from a filling station, the vast majority (92 percent) indicated that they notice the price, but far fewer look at ethanol content (24 percent), octane rating (56 percent) and warning labels (50 percent). Nearly 57 percent, a 6-percent increase over last year, confessed that they typically only pay attention to fuel pump labels if they read “Warning” or “Do Not Use In…” And 51 percent demonstrated that they don’t give it much thought as they tend to fill up their portable gas tank with the same fuel used to fill their vehicle. That’s a 3-percent increase over last year’s poll findings (48 percent).

“We hope the Environmental Protection Agency will engage in more education as additional blended fuels are introduced in the marketplace,” said Kiser. “Otherwise, we could continue to see confusion among consumers. The outdoor power equipment industry has supported consumer education through our ‘Look Before You Pump’ campaign since 2013. But it’s clear our government needs to do more.”

You can get free ethanol education materials and the research summary by registering for OPEI’s ethanol education portal at www.LookBeforeYouPump.com.

OPE Senior Editor Steve Noe