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E15 - A Bumpy Ride for Motorcyclists

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted October 28, 2013

The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) talked last week about a recent survey from Harris Interactive that showed: “… more than three-fourths of Americans fear that E15 fuel may damage car engines and fuel system components, the American Motorcyclist Association reports. Also, more than two-thirds of those surveyed believe that using more corn for ethanol production could force up food prices …”

Here is more on E15, from the AMA:

“Thanks to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, there’s a new threat facing motorcyclists nationwide, and possibly all Americans. The danger is posed by a certain blend of motor vehicle fuel called E15, which may damage the engines of motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, boats and powered equipment.” – Wayne Allard, AMA vice president for government relations

blend_wallE15 is a new fuel blend of 15 percent ethanol and 85 percent gasoline that the EPA has approved for use in 2001-and-newer passenger vehicles. The blend isn't approved for use in motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, boats, lawn mowers and other engines, and may even damage them and void warranties. – AMA

… E15 could lower fuel efficiency and possibly cause premature engine failure for motorcycles and ATVs. – AMA

… the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to allow E15 into the marketplace would impact every American who owns motorcycles and ATVs, not to mention cars, lawnmowers, boats and snowmobiles.AMA

… the U.S. Department of Agriculture was subsidizing ethanol production from the start by providing grants to purchase special ethanol blender pumps. … Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced in 2011 that the USDA intends to install 10,000 blender pumps by 2016. [Rural Energy for America Program] REAP will be a key component to achieve the secretary’s goal and, thus, help grow the availability of E15 fuel. These special ethanol blender pumps will further limit access to E10-or-less fuel in rural areas. This will be a problem because rural areas tend to have an older “legacy” vehicle fleet than other parts of the country. Moreover, rural areas are the most vulnerable places for motorcyclists and users of small engine devices because options for regular gasoline may be few or even non-existent. The REAP will help one segment of the rural economy at the cost of other segments. Ultimately, the higher costs will have a negative impact on small rural economies. – AMA

Automobile and motorcycle manufacturers must certify that the on-highway vehicles they produce will meet applicable U.S. EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration emissions, fuel economy and safety requirements prior to selling the vehicles. The fuel that the vehicles must use for this requirement is called the “certification fuel.”  By administrative fiat, the EPA now proposes to change the certification fuel to E15, with an allowance for manufacturers to petition the EPA for an E30 certification…The current certification fuel is E0 – that is, fuel that has no ethanol content whatsoever. Changing the certification fuel to E15 or E30 is at odds with the 22 million motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles currently in use, not to mention the legacy fleet of cars, boats, lawnmowers, generators and hundreds of millions of small engines in commerce today. None of these vehicles and engines is designed to operate on fuel with more than 10 percent ethanol.AMA

"When you have a type of fuel that, if inadvertently used, has the potential to damage engines and fuel systems and void a manufacturer's new-vehicle warranty, you really should move with caution when it comes to putting that fuel in the marketplace. Issuing rules that allow the sale of E15 at gas stations without adequate testing to be sure it's safe in motorcycles and ATVs, not to mention engines in boats and power equipment, just isn't wise.” – AMA Board Chairman Maggie McNally

100 percent of the 22 million motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles on the road and trail in the U.S. today are not designed to run ethanol blends higher than 10 percent, and many older machines favored by vintage enthusiasts have problems with any ethanol in the fuel. And yet the opportunity to misfuel and damage an engine with higher ethanol blends such as E15 is very real. It is time to set the record straight.

1)    The AMA recognizes ethanol is one of many possible fuels. The key is that when our engines and fuel systems are designed for one type of fuel, we can't just put anything in the tank and expect there will be no problems. There has to be a ready supply of safe fuels for all motorcycles and ATVs.

2)    The EPA has not tested E15 on motorcycle and ATV engines and does not approve of E15 for their use.

3)    Use of E15 can void a manufacturer’s warranty.

4)    The AMA wants an independent, scientific study on the effects of E15 on motorcycle and ATVs engines.

5)    The AMA’s concerns has always been that riders might unintentionally put E15 in their fuel tanks due to confusing and/or unmonitored implementation of the EPA Misfueling Mitigation Plan and the possibility of residual E15 fuel left in a fuel hose, which could be as much as one-third of a gallon.

The bottom line for the AMA is this: Motorcyclists simply want safe fuels available at all fuel retailers and measures employed by retailers to ensure they cannot inadvertently put unsafe fuels in their tanks. - AMA

“It really doesn't do much good to have laws and rules telling refiners to create volumes of ethanol-gasoline blends that consumers won't buy.” – Wayne Allard, AMA vice president for government relations

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.