The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

An E15 Warning for Consumers

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted January 7, 2011

Battle lines are being drawn over the labels that are supposed to be affixed to gasoline pumps dispensing E15. This fuel blend, which consists of 85 percent gasoline and 15 percent ethanol, has been authorized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use in 2007 and newer model vehicles despite the fact that it appears to be capable of harming some engines and dispensing equipment.

Now a fight is brewing over the labels for the pumps. To prevent misfueling, API is proposing a label that provides the critical information to the consumer to make an informed decision:

e15 warning.jpg Growth Energy, the pro-ethanol group that petitioned the EPA to permit the sale of E15, prefers this label:e15 warning2.jpg

Now I ask you: Which of these labels is more likely to get your attention and stop you from putting the wrong fuel in your car or gas can?

The oil and natural gas industry is not against ethanol. In fact, it is the single largest purchaser of ethanol, and it blends ethanol into the nation's gasoline pool in accordance with federal guidelines for E10 fuel. But preliminary studies conducted by the Coordinating Research Council indicate that serious damage can result from using blends containing more than 10 percent ethanol in your vehicle.

"Ongoing vehicle and infrastructure research must be completed before E15 should be allowed into the marketplace so that all potential risks can be accurately assessed and adequately addressed," wrote API's Downstream Director Bob Greco to the EPA this week. The tests will be finished this year.

Charles Drevna, president of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association was more direct. "E15 could cause engine malfunctions that could result in boaters stranded at sea, snowmobilers stuck in wilderness blizzards, and users of chain saws and other equipment being injured," he said in an op-ed in The Hill.

With all of the concern over a fuel that EPA approved, one would think that the federal government would take on the responsibility to ensure consumers use E15 correctly, right? Wrong. EPA wants to shift the responsibility for misfueling to the service station owners even if their pumps are properly labeled. The agency has stated, "Compliance with the labeling requirement does not ensure that the responsible parties have not made prohibited sales."

API believes EPA's partial waiver permitting the sale of E15 is premature. This fuel blend should not enter the marketplace until its safety and compatibility with existing equipment (including vehicles, small engines and service station infrastructure) are assured.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jane Van Ryan was formerly senior communications manager and new media advisor at the American Petroleum Institute (API), where she wrote blog posts and produced podcasts and videos. Before coming to API, Jane managed communications for a large science and engineering corporation, and for a top-tier research and engineering university. A few years ago, you might have seen her in your living room when she delivered the news on television. Jane officially retired from API in 2011 and now freelances as an independent communications consultant when not gardening at her farm in Virginia.