A coalition of small engine groups representing boaters, motorcyclists, snowmobilers and outdoor power equipment manufacturers, petitioned the U.S. EPA on Wednesday seeking a mandate to ensure the continued availability of E-10 at retail stations. The groups are concerned that once E-15 is allowed to enter the marketplace retailers will choose to sell that blend instead of E-10, leaving consumers no option but to misfuel their small engines with E-15.
The Renewable Fuels Association contends that if consumers demand E-10, retailers will continue to provide them with that fuel, but Kris Kiser, executive vice president of OPEI, disagrees and said cost will dictate the availability of fuel, sometimes at a detriment to vehicle warranties. “Consumers will want what’s cheaper and retailers will sell what they can make the most money on,” he said. “People base their fuel purchasing decision on price. Whatever goes in the car goes in the can.”
The threat of class-action lawsuits or massive equipment recalls in response to consumers misusing E-15 in un-approved off-road vehicles is huge, Kiser said. (E-15 is illegal to use in certain engines, such as chainsaws, leaf blowers and lawn mowing equipment, and can casue problems in some engines.) But, he stressed that the petition filing is not anti-ethanol. Rather, it’s an attempt to force the EPA to address the misfueling issue. “That’s the beef. If EPA is going to put E-15 out there, make sure that you have E-10 out there, too. At least for awhile, until these products end up out of the marketplace or manufacturers begin designing for E-15.”
E-15 is illegal to use in certain engines, such as chainsaws, lead blowers and lawn mowing equipment.
Growth Energy led the ethanol industry’s call for an increase to E-15 and filed the initial waiver request two years ago. CEO Tom Buis recommended that the groups petitioning for an E-10 mandate should focus their efforts instead on supporting the expansion of blender pumps at retail stations nationwide. “Flex-fuel pumps give consumers the option to choose multiple blends of fuel from E-10 to E-85, and certainly addresses the concerns about the availability for off-road vehicles, snow blowers or any vehicles that are not approved for use of E-15,” he said. “This petition would erect new, artificial barriers to the fuels market that would limit choice at the pump and cost retailers money at a time when many are still struggling to make ends meet.”
It is not yet clear what course of the action the EPA will take in response to the E-10 mandate petition. The agency could roll the new request into its final E-15 misfueling control rule, which is currently under development and is scheduled to be released by the summer, according to comments recently made by EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. The other option available is for the EPA to initiate a new rulemaking, which would then require a comment period and a much longer review process.